Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

10 Regulatory agencies
The basic questions this chapter will address are:
1. Do regulatory agencies serve the interests of the American people?
2. Do regulatory agencies regulate corporations, or do corporations direct the regulatory agencies?
3. Can regulatory agencies be reformed, or must they be eliminated?

A regulatory agency is a formal independent institution established by, and under the nominal control of Congress. Its purpose is to oversee industries whose goods and/or services need control to best serve the public. Regulatory agencies are known as the fourth arm of government. The Federal Trade Commission, established by the Pure Food and Drug Act, sees that food products meet health standards and drugs are safe for human consumption. The Interstate Commerce Commission sets rates for industries whose enterprises cross state boundaries.

The public position of conservatives on regulatory agencies is simple: they interfere with the development of free enterprise, therefore they should not exist. Regulatory agencies are an inefficient overlay of bureaucratic regulation that increases the retail cost of products. Regulation of business should be done by business itself through organizations such as the Better Business Bureau. Conservatives maintain that government regulation opens the door to a "communist welfare state," in their eyes, the devil. In the line of conservative thinking, there should be no government, regulation whatsoever.

Given the existence of regulatory agencies conservatives believe that they should be controlled by people who will act on behalf of industry. Their public position on this issue is that regulatory agencies should be staffed by experts. And Industry produces the relevant experts. The real position of conservatives is that regulatory agencies can be made Into useful devices to protect industry from public pressure. Conservative success in controlling regulatory agencies is due to the fact that many liberals believe that industry's viewpoint should be given considerable weight and that regulatory agencies should not act solely on behalf of the public.

Liberals believe in government regulation of private enterprise. Without regulation major corporations will rob the public blind. Government regulation keeps small businesses from being eliminated by the few large companies who corner the market. According to liberals, government regulation ensures economic competition and defends the public from corporate abuses of power. For example, fair rates must be set for companies such as Bell Telephone which has no competitors. The issuance of licenses for corporations that use public facilities such as the air waves must be granted to those who will serve the public interest. In another aspect of regulation, constant testing of consumer goods must be carried on so that product safety is insured.

Liberals feel that regulatory agencies can be improved by making them stronger and by filling their managerial posts with individuals who have

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