After enduring countless arguments over the role of government, I came up with a set of criteria that should be the basis for government intervention into any issue. This isn’t a complete list. It probably will need some expansion, but it’ll do for starters. I think, whenever somebody shouts, “we have to DO something”, before legislation or regulation of any kind is instituted, the following questions must be asked:
1) Does evidence exist, beyond a reasonable doubt, that government action is warranted and that it will make a significant difference?
- Is the problem of such urgency that, without changes, significant and widespread detriment has and will continue to occur?
- Are we certain government intervention will reverse or forestall this detrimental result?
- If not, can this intervention be reversed?
2) Does government really need to be involved?
- Can the problem be solved without government intervention?
3) If government must be involved, to what extent and at what cost?
- Intervention must occur with minimal infringement on personal liberty.
- Intervention must occur with minimal cost across all measures of value (financial, personal, environmental).
4) Can the results of government action be verifiably measured to demonstrate the intended effect has been successful, and does it offset the downsides of any unintended consequences?
- If results cannot be measured, then there is no way to tell if intervention is successful, rendering such intervention pointless.
- Are unintended consequences so egregious so as to significantly decrease the extent of the intended effect, or create equally problematic issues?