There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains.
-Theodore Roosevelt, speech, August 31, 1910
There’s a side to regulation that most people don’t think about, and it has far-reaching effects if representatives of corporations are writing the rules. Once a regulation is passed saying, “you can emit no more than 10 ppm [parts per million] of mercury,” you can legally emit up to 10 ppm. Before that rule was passed, any amount you emitted might subject you to potential lawsuits from nearby humans made ill by your emissions, by other states, or even by the federal government. The regulatory rule essentially legalizes what a corporation is doing. In the best of worlds, this wouldn’t be a problem. But in practice it means that business interests are often directly involved in writing the regulations that they themselves will have to obey.
Regulations Can Legalize Activity That Causes Public Harm
During the Reagan administration, Robert Monks and Nell Minow worked with the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief. Monks says, “We found that business representatives continually sought more rather than less regulation, particularly when [the new regulations] would limit their liability or protect them from competition.”