Regulation rage has a couple of distinctive features. One is its disproportionality, in which fairly mild restrictions set off volcanic anger. The other is the sheer pettiness of many of the ragers’ complaints. Trump, by his own account,

dislikes modern light bulbs because they make him look orange

— which isn’t even true. (He does indeed look orange, but it’s probably because of his addiction to artificial tanning and excessive use of bronzer.)

Oh, and do people remember

Trump’s opposition to regulations that protect the ozone layer because, he claimed, his hair spray wasn’t working as well as it used to?

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But as I said, regulation rage seems to be more about psychology than about self-interest. It’s coming from people who, for whatever reason, don’t feel respected, and who see even mild restrictions on their actions as insults perpetrated by elites who consider themselves smarter than other people.

Such people are a distinct minority among Americans in general. For example, polling tells us that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including a majority of self-identified Republicans, want to see pollution regulation strengthened, not weakened.

But regulation ragers have disproportionate influence over Republican politicians. And now we have a regulation rager sitting in the White House, determined to undo public-interest regulation even when big business wants it retained.

And pointing out that regulatory rollbacks are both bad for the economy and likely to sicken or kill many Americans won’t help. After all, anyone saying such things is, by definition, a know-it-all elitist.

Paul Krugman, journalist


 

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