I keep seeing the opinion that regulation stifles creativity and innovation. Searching on “regulation stifles innovation” returns plenty of hits.
I’m not a historian or economist, so please show me if I’m missing anything, but I find the opposite.
My big example is cars. Today we value safety, efficiency, and durability. Actually, I think most buyers always valued those things.
In the 60s, the U.S. car industry largely ignored those values in favor of chrome, tail fins, cushy rides, and acceleration, even when it made cars less safe, efficient, and durable.
Why did car companies change?
Unsafe At Any Speed showed how focusing on one set of goals — speed, chrome, etc — detracted from the others — safety, efficiency, etc.
Competition from Toyota, Volkswagen, and others that followed what more consumers wanted was there for the U.S. car companies to see.
Eventually, consumer demand became clear and regulation followed. Did innovation stop? No, we now have 100,000 mile warranties, air bags, and seat belts more comfortable and effective than I grew up with.
I’ll take saving lives over chrome any day.
Legislation helped an industry pick a direction following citizen demand that lack of regulation kept it from.
Missing legislation hurting environmental innovation today
Lack of regulation in power is allowing fossil fuel companies to do what car companies did generations ago. Few then would have predicted GM going bankrupt and Toyota become the largest manufacturer despite it then producing small cars, but these things happened. This country isn’t innovating near its potential or as much as other countries where citizens demand it — for example in renewables.
Lack of regulation in power is likely contributing to U.S. companies not innovating and risking bankruptcy like in the auto industry.
Lack of regulation to meet citizen demand on waste disposal and resource depletion are keeping U.S. companies from innovating to produce less waste and consume less resources. Nobody wants more waste nor to run out of resources, but as long as they remain profitable, industries will produce them.
Imagine if we reduced waste as much as we reduced car degradation. What would the waste reduction equivalent of a 100,000 mile warranty? What if single-use products went the way of car seats without head rests or cars without seat belts?
What could engineers develop if directed toward producing clean, low-resource products instead of the cheapest possible?
Everyone wants clean air, clean water, and clean land. Laws promoting them would meet citizen demand and promote innovation to create more cleanliness.
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