There's no such thing as disinterested regulators

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Friday, March 18, 2011; 9:21 PM

In his March 16 op-ed column, "Our Lisbon moment?," Harold Meyerson wrote: "What [recent failures and catastrophes] should teach us is that the need for active, disinterested governmental regulation is rooted not in any radical impulse, as the American right continually contends, but in a sober, conservative assessment of the human capacity for mistake and self-delusion, not to mention avarice and chicanery." He went on to mention "our own sense of infallibility."

Mr. Meyerson seemed, however, not to recognize certain ineradicable and (for pro-regulation partisans) inconvenient facts. (1) There is no such thing as disinterested governmental regulation.

Every regulation is set up for and in support of some interest, and every regulator has an interest in whatever he or she is doing. (2) Governmental regulation cannot exist or be carried out without the existence of governmental bureaus and the activity of governmental bureaucrats.

Mr. Meyerson was right to note that humans tend to have a sense of infallibility. But this applies to all people, including governmental regulators and bureaucrats. There is no reason to think they are any less mistake-prone, self-deluded, deceitful, self-interested, avaricious and lacking a sense of their own fallibility than anyone else.

Lloyd Eby, Cheverly


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