Populations of Regulation — Intro

How you feel about regulation may depend heavily on your party affiliation.  Image Credit:  Stacy Cashman... heavily altered.

How you feel about regulation may depend heavily on your party affiliation. Image Credit: Stacy Cashman… heavily altered.

“Regulation” is a topic that surfaces often in contemporary American political debate. Typically one finds Republican lawmakers in stark, total opposition to regulation, whereas the opposite tendency is found in Democrats, who tend to come out in knee-jerk defense of it. In fact, each group will also point to “Regulation” as either the source or the solution to many societal problems. Republicans will often paint “Regulation” as a constraining burden on American businesses, while Democrats tend to blame the worst aspects of the American economic system — such as the recent financial crisis — on “Deregulation.” In either case, “Regulation” or and its absence “Deregulation” are referred to as totalistic concepts.

But “Regulation” is not really a concept. Concepts don’t govern us. Regulations are an extremely diverse population of types of laws that span all aspects of governed society. Coalescing wildly divergent policies under a monolithic term undermines our political discourse in serious ways. Republicans and Democrats don’t just view big-R-Regulation differently — they tend to have different discrete small-r-regulations in mind when considering “Regulation” as a concept. And so they tend to talk past one another. Given the diversity housed under the term “Regulation,” does it really make sense to be “for” or “against” it in some all-or-nothing fashion? Shouldn’t we attend to the details of how we are actually being governed?

This post is the introduction to an ongoing series where we will explore, like a naturalist, the diverse populations of law that tend to get reductively grouped under the concept of “Regulation.” By examining what we mean by “Regulation” more closely, we can engage one another more effectively. And by the time we complete our survey, we will hopefully have a picture of the history and present of our regulatory state that is at once more complete and more precise.

Below is a list of some of the categories that we may be exploring over the coming installments:

– Professional Licensing
– Standards and Norms
– Safety Compliance
– FDA Drug Classifications
– Immigrant Work Policies
– Mandatory Minimum Sentences
– Free Speech Zones
– Insurance Mandates
– Building Codes
– Zoning Laws
– Housing Codes
– Anti-“Dual-Use” Law
– Price Controls
– Corporate Welfare
– Farm Subsidies
– EPA Guidelines
– Law Enforcement Behavioral Guidelines
– Patriot Act Compliance
– Common Core
– Campaign Finance Law
– Executive Orders