Home Business Binyamin Applebaum Insists That America Be Like Europe

Binyamin Applebaum Insists That America Be Like Europe



And Mr. Applebaum is an idiot for thinking so too:

The HQ2 process was an example of an increasingly common feature of American life: big tech companies putting on shows of government-style decision-making about government-scale issues.

His examples are where should Amazon place an office, how should Facebook regulate what is posted on its private property, should Uber make a voluntary exchange with its workers over pay and conditions?

Applebaum’s answer is no, they shouldn’t. These are large decisions and therefore something that must be decided by government.

Which is, of course, an argument for stasis. I am not mischaracterising his argument either:

When companies are allowed to strike the balance, there may be some congruence with the public interest, but not enough. Corporations are participants in a system, not the system administrators. Regulating the nature and pace of change is one of the most important roles of government. It’s a job the government needs to take more seriously.

He is insisting that the precautionary principle, in its extreme form, must hold sway. That before you do something you need the sign off from the bureaucracy to be allowed to do that thing. It is entirely the antithesis of the common law system – anything not expressly illegal is allowed – ad is even worse than the actual application of Roman law to the real world.

Apart from anything else if we’ve not the freedom to go do as we wish, within extant law, then how can we ever experiment and find out what people wish to have done? Should Amazon have had to get permission to compete with Borders’ mail order department? Because that is what he’s saying.

But there’s a bigger problem here. Think of what regulation of change by politics actually means. Any extant system or arrangement has a political constituency behind it. Any new system doesn’t. So, in politics, who has the power? The incumbents. Regulating change through politics is an incumbency protection system.

That is, if we ask the people who depend upon political donations to regulate change then we won’t have any. It’s an argument for stasis.



  1. Yup, “regulatory capture” is one of the main weaknesses of the administrative state. Large, incumbent players, usually corporations, capture the levers of the regulatory agency ostensibly set up to provide guard rails for their operations. They restrict competition, remove impediment to the corporations and generally screw over the taxpayers. Good jobs for the civil servants when they retire with their outrageous pensions, however.

  2. Only the politicians are allowed to have inside information on large moves!

    You don’t think this happens? Why do you think pretty much every congressman leaves office much richer than he came in?


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