The Book of Mormon
and the Constitution

Chapter 22: Government must Punish Nothing Except the Intentional Violation of Duties—Regulatory Laws

Definition of a Regulatory Law

      We shall use the term regulatory law to mean any rule, regulation or government decree, the purpose of which is to regulate the business and private affairs of the people. While this definition is broad enough to cover licensing laws and some types of welfare state laws, those are special types of regulatory laws which we treat separately. Therefore our discussion in this chapter will cover types of regulatory laws other than those.

Regulatory Laws Violate the Golden Rule

      We have seen in the previous chapter that licensing laws have the effect of violating the Golden Rule. Herein we will see that regulatory laws have this same effect. In both instances when the laws are enforced the innocent are punished, the right of private property is abridged and the power of government over the people is increased.

      Regulatory laws are often confused with criminal laws because they contain a penalty clause making it a criminal offense to violate them. Nevertheless, they are not adopted for the purpose of punishing crime. They are useless for this purpose because criminal laws already cover all types of crimes which one can commit in the operation of his business and private affairs.

      The fundamental and all-important difference between a regulatory law and a criminal law is this: proof of an evil intent is essential to convict [p. 158] one of violating a criminal law, but is not necessary for conviction under a regulatory law. Since regulatory laws provide for inflicting penalties on those who are innocent of an evil intent, they are in direct conflict with our second law which decrees that government shall punish nothing other than the intentional violation of duties.

      Some may imagine that regulatory laws are necessary to permit one who has been injured by a business to recover damages therefor. But this is not true since tort and contract laws already make provision for all such cases.

What Motivates the Adoption of Regulatory Laws?

      We see clearly why licensing laws are adopted: Their purpose is to give special interest groups government enforced monopolies. But the reasons which motivate the passage of regulatory laws are not that easily identified. This is especially true since they so obviously violate the Golden Rule and the principles of private morality.

      As individuals, we have no desire to regulate the private and business affairs of one another. Usually our own difficulties and problems consume all of our time and energy. Neither do we have any right to do so. Any person who would undertake to force others to operate their businesses or conduct their private affairs as he dictated, would be excluded from polite society and probably end up in jail.

      Also, since as individual citizens we have no authority to interfere in each others private and business affairs, we cannot convey such a power to government; and if this cannot be done, regulatory laws constitute a usurpation of power. Why then do we tolerate regulatory laws? Could it be because almost all men have the disposition to exercise unrighteous dominion as soon as they get a little authority? Is it because we have been deceived into believing regulation is necessary?

The Iron Law of Stewardship Makes Regulation Unnecessary

      Those who favor government interference with the operation of private businesses seem unaware of the iron law of stewardship which [p. 159] decrees that an owner of private property must use that property for the benefit of others, lose it to those who will, or suffer the losses which the ownership of idle property always brings. In an unregulated economy, business owners must conduct their businesses in such a manner that they serve the buying public on their own terms or go bankrupt. They must also share what they produce with employees.

      Owners of businesses are caught between the conflicting demands of customers who are always asking for better quality at lower prices, and those of employees who are always seeking higher wages which requires an increase in prices. He needs no government regulatory agency to compel him to try to satisfy both of these two groups because unless he does he will lose them. He can be depended upon to operate his business as efficiently as possible and to do whatever is necessary to retain both his customers and his employees.

      When government steps in and forces him to comply with a new set of demands, this always reduces the efficiency of his operation and raises his costs, including taxes. Of course these burdens must be passed on to the consumers in the form of increased selling prices.

      Since, as noted above, regulatory laws are useless either for the punishment of crime or for the recovery of damages, and since they do nothing but increase selling prices and taxes, everyone should oppose them on practical grounds if nothing else. But there is another consequence of regulatory laws which is far more serious than this which we shall now discuss.

Regulatory Laws Help Achieve the Communist Goal Thereby Preventing the Operation of the Law of Stewardship

      It is apparent that when regulatory laws are numerous enough, the communist goal of abolition of private property is largely achieved without government becoming the owner. If regulatory laws enable it to dictate the purposes for, and the manner in which private property may be used, it possesses many of the powers which ownership would give.

      We own property so that we may use it to achieve our own purposes. But if government has the power to dictate what those purposes are and how they shall be achieved, private ownership is largely denied. To the [p. 160] extent government regulations exist, the constitutional guarantee that, “no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” is denied. Also to this same extent the Communist goal of “abolition of private property” is achieved.

      The Lord, in describing His reasons for establishing the laws and Constitution of the United States said:

Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (D&C 101:79-80)

      Government constitutes the greatest threat to human freedom on earth and one of the easiest ways of bringing citizens into bondage is by regulating and controlling their property. Any person who believes that the Lord has commanded men to befriend only those laws which are constitutional, and at the same time realizes that the support of Communist objectives is one of the worst sins he can commit, will hesitate before supporting regulatory laws.

      It is also apparent that to the extent that regulatory laws exist, they prevent the operation of the iron law of stewardship. The owner is compelled to do as the bureaucrat dictates rather than as the customers demand. If it be true that everyone is benefitted by the operation of the law of stewardship, then it is to the interest of consumers, employees and taxpayers alike to see that regulatory laws are abolished so that its operation is not interfered with.

      If businessmen commit crimes, let them be punished under the criminal laws. If they cause injury, let those who suffer, recover damages in a civil suit. But in all other situations, businessmen should be free from the control of government so that they may serve the public on its own terms.

Should Government Ownership Be Preferred over Private Ownership?

      Only governments are able to escape the inexorable demands of the iron law of stewardship. They are not faced with the necessity of solving [p. 161] the problems faced by the private owner. They do not need to put their property to productive use in order to continue to own it. And even if they operate it, they need not do so efficiently. They can always compel the public to pay their losses through increased taxes.

      The monopolies which men should fear are those of governments and gangsters. Government is the one organization which can legally use its ownership and control of property to make slaves and paupers of the people. That is the one owner which can sit on the wealth of a nation and permit it to lie idle. In a socialist nation where the state owns the land and regulates and controls the use to which it may be put, the people are literally in bondage to their own government. One of the Ten Points of the Communist Manifesto reads as follows:

Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

Unregulated Businesses Provide Maximum Benefits For All

      When the free enterprise system is allowed to operate without interference, the rich do not get richer while the poor get poorer, but the poor benefit far more than do the so-called rich. The rich can neither gain nor retain large amounts of wealth except by serving both the public and their employees.

      To operate a large enterprise, the owner must not only serve many consumers and do so on their terms, but he must hire large numbers of employees on their terms. In doing this he must allow these groups to reap nearly all of the benefits from the operation of the business. In every large business, the consumers and employees consume a hundred fold more of what is produced than do the owners, and this is the true test as to who benefits from the operation of that business.

      Because of envy, greed, and the spreading of false doctrines, large businesses ofttimes become the object of hate campaigns. The truth is that the public is always better off with such businesses in operation than without, because it is the public which consumes nearly all the businesses produce. The real concern of the public should be that their governments never adopt laws which give such businesses special privileges and monopolies, thus preventing others from entering the field and serving [p. 162] them also. Licensing laws always harm society by preventing the unrestricted operation of the law of stewardship.

      But socializing a business by transferring its ownership to government is the worst alternative of all. In doing so, the stewardship law is abolished, thus causing the greatest injury possible to employees and consumers alike.

      When one compares the poverty and want in socialist countries with the prosperity and well being of the people who live under a government which protects the right of private property, the benefits of the operation of the Lord’s system of stewardship is plain to see. Today it is impossible to compare a completely unregulated economy with one which is regulated, because the former does not exist. However any fair observer will find that other things being equal, the less the regulation, the greater the prosperity of everyone.

      It is strange indeed that the private capitalist which the people should trust, they tend to fear; while the government owner and regulator which they should fear, they tend to place their faith in.

What about Public Nuisances?

      Suppose that business owners produce obnoxious or harmful sights, sounds, smells or chemicals on their property. Are not regulatory laws necessary to prevent such? Anyone who wants to obey the Golden Rule and give businessmen the same just treatment he would desire, will insist that one charged with committing a public nuisance be granted his day in court. If a defendant is charged with having caused an injury either intentionally or negligently, let those making the charge prove their case in a court of law if they are able, and let the defendant present his defense.

      Regulatory agencies are unnecessary for the prosecution and trial of public nuisances. On the other hand, to have a case tried before those whose very jobs depend upon prosecuting and judging nuisance cases, may result in biased decisions, bribery, or both. Only by assigning cases of public nuisances to regular courts of law can a defendant expect to receive a fair trial. [p. 163]

Regulation Is Costly

      It would be difficult to make a close guess as to the total cost of regulatory laws. It is so enormous, and results from so many different aspects of regulation, that the estimator cannot be certain he has taken everything into account. He can count bureaucratic noses and add up the cost of office space, secretaries, telephone bills, travel and other operating costs. But who can estimate the number of man hours which businesses are forced to devote to preparing the never-ending and ever- increasing reports, answering the questionnaires and correspondence, conferring with, placating, and obeying the orders of government employees who are charged with regulating them?

      Who can estimate the value of the goods and services the public has been denied by the interference of regulatory agencies? Who can guess how many businesses have failed for no other reason than that they could not bear the expense of preparing the paperwork and complying with other regulations of the bureaucracy? The cost may run into hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

How Can We Stop the Enforcement of Regulatory Laws?

      The Constitution of the United States provides for trial by jury in all criminal cases. If this practice were followed in all jurisdictions, the people acting as jurors would have the power to prevent enforcement of any regulatory law inimical to their interests. They would have an absolute veto on every law under which government attempts to impose a criminal penalty. They would have the power to compel obedience to the second subdivision of the Golden Rule which decrees:

Government shall punish nothing except the intentional violation of duties.

      Another method of abolishing the bureaucracy is to elect men to office who will repeal the laws which created it. [p. 164]

Words of Ezra Taft Benson

In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn’t go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not, then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime.

This brings up the next question: How is it possible to cut out the various welfare-state features of our government which have already fastened themselves like cancer cells onto the body politic? Isn’t drastic surgery already necessary, and can it be performed without endangering the patient? In answer, it is obvious that drastic measures are called for. No half-way or compromise actions will suffice. Like all surgery, it will not be without discomfort and perhaps even some scar tissue for a long time to come. But it must be done if the patient is to be saved, and it can be done without undue risk. (Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government, p. 19) [p. 165]

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