The Era of Big Government Ain’t Over

Thursday, July 30, 1998
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Socialism is dead—except, perhaps, in some American universities—long live neosocialism. Instead of taking over businesses, government agencies tell the owners how to run them.

Since most of the costs are dumped onto the private sector, the extent of this regulation is hard to track. But the Center for the Study of American Business (CSAB) at Washington University in St. Louis has developed two measures: the cost of the federal regulatory apparatus and the number of people in it. What they show:

  • Regulation hovers around record levels.
  • But regulation’s upward momentum of the early 1990s seems not to have been sustained, noticeably in staffing and arguably in spending. Says CSAB associate director Melinda Warren wryly: “How you feel about this depends on whether you think the glass is half full or half empty.”
  • Republicans are no antidote. Al-though the early Reagan years saw a serious effort at regulatory reduction, the Nixon and Bush years saw regulation rampant. The current Republican congressional leadership now seems to be leaning against the Reagan model and toward Nixon-Bush. After a brief hiccup in 1996, probably reflecting the impact of the government shutdown, regulatory neosocialism appears alive and well.