Acton Institute Powerblog

Trump’s regulation executive order: A good Canadian and British idea

Perhaps the most utilitarian function of any intellectual journal is to exchange successful policies. Bad ideas cross borders, even oceans, but thankfully good ideas do, too. President Donald Trump’s most recent executive order to curtail federal regulation is one such example.

Donald Trump signing executive orders in the Oval Office. Credit: White House Facebook Page.

The order, covered by Joe Carter on Monday, holds that that for every new regulation added to the federal register, two must be repealed – and the added burden must be zero dollars. That’s good news, as regulations currently cost the U.S. economy an estimated $1.98 trillion. But the idea originated in the distant Canadian province of British Columbia.

“The province reduced regulations by 47 percent between 2001 and March 31, 2016 – eliminating 157,373 regulations,” I write in a new piece on Acton’s transatlantic website.

The federal government of Canada adopted a similar rule, with marked success. Then the UK implemented a rule requiring first parity, then two-for-one, and now a three-for-one ratio of repeals for every new regulation finalized.

European red tape is the stuff of legend. Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told the House Judiciary Committee last year of a British businessman, surveying French employment regulations, who said: “[W]hen I am 100 percent utterly and completely certain that it is an absolute certainty that it is an absolute necessity that I need to recruit a new employee, I go to bed, sleep well and hope that the feeling has gone away by the morning.”

All portions of the transatlantic sphere – the U.S., Canada, and Europe – have faced the creeping costs of undemocratic edicts penned in distant capitals by faceless bureaucrats who are only slightly less impossible to identify than they are to fire. As I write:

Regulations pose a multi-layered problem for a free and virtuous society. They erode popular control of government, approaching a form of taxation without representation. They stigmatize companies’ reactions, rather than the overreaching regulatory agency that drafted them, and often touch off a vicious cycle of further government intervention. They complicate entry into markets and fall most heavily upon small businesses, consumers, and employees at the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

The regulatory reform measures in all three nations strike a blow for democratic governance, economic liberty, and human flourishing – but they also have pitfalls, which the United States could profit from taking into account.

Read the full piece here.

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.