Cato Releases “Reviving Economic Growth” with Essay from Philip Howard
The Cato Institute released Reviving Economic Growth this week, an e-book with 51 essays from experts answering this question: “If you could wave a magic wand and make one or two policy or institutional changes to brighten the U.S. economy’s long-term growth prospects, what would you change and why?”
Here is an excerpt from Philip Howard’s contribution, “Radically Simplify Law”:
America’s can-do culture has a few necessary conditions, including the rule of law. Economic energy dissipates in a state of anarchy or corruption. A vigorous economy requires a legal platform which enforces contracts, protects against crime and allows people to go through the day focusing forward, not looking over their shoulders.
Too much law, however, can have similar effects as too little law. People slow down, they become defensive, they don’t initiate projects because they are surrounded by legal risks and bureaucratic hurdles. They tiptoe through the day looking over their shoulders rather than driving forward on the power of their instincts. Instead of trial and error, they focus on avoiding error.
Modern America is the land of too much law. Like sediment in a harbor, law has steadily accumulated, mainly since the 1960s, until most productive activity requires slogging through a legal swamp. It’s degenerative. Law is denser now than it was 10 years ago, and will be denser still in the next decade.