Cyanide is a poison. On that there is no real argument. A biochemist could explain how it messes up a deep level of a key system and is thus a very nasty poison. And yet there are foods, intentionally eaten even by the non-suicidal, that contain cyanide. But people aren’t dropping dead due to eating spinach or even lima beans [Are you sure about lima beans? – Ed]. What gives? What gives is that while spinach and lima beans and other foods do indeed contain cyanide, they contain only very very tiny amounts. Amounts that are physiologically insignificant. The dose is so low there is no poisoning and life goes on.
A more applicable thing to this post is vitamin D. Vitamin D is a thing necessary for people and a deficiency results in bad things happening. But too much for too long and other bad things happen. There is a range for which vitamin D is beneficial. If you have a deficiency, a change of diet and/or supplementation is a good idea. Downing several “100%” supplements every day, day in and day out, is not a good idea. You can get away with it for a little while, but over the long run you are apt to run into trouble.
Government is, in a way, like vitamin D. We need some. We do not need too much. Unlike the vitamin, the deficiency can result in an overdose. Consider the special case of pure anarchy: Zero government. It is not a stable condition, as some form of governance will arise. It is, unfortunately, most likely to be of the dictatorial sort as power will be exerted by strength alone and the strongest, most brutal, wins the day. The overdose condition is also unstable, but it takes longer to fall apart. It could take a lifetime or several. When everything is government controlled, why bother doing anything more than the utterly necessary, if one will not truly benefit from the effort? Thus arises the Soviet-era joke, “They pretend to pay us; we pretend to work.”
The current Big Argument has been cast a few ways, as Left vs. Right, as Urban vs. Rural, as International vs. National, and on and on. The casting that seems the most likely to me was as drloss put it, Statist vs. Individualist. Those calling themselves liberal or progressives, as well as those calling themselves conservatives, and libertarian all claim to be Individualist rather than Statist. Yet examples can be found for each group that actual behavior is Statist – provided they are the ones running the state, of course. The Statist view is that government and its regulations are a tool to force people (those other people, of course) to behave in a set, presumed ideal, way: Government’s job is to stuff mere man into an angel mold and apply pressure until conformity occurs.
The Individualist is not trying to destroy all government. That’s the mark of the insane. What’s desired is lowering the dosage of government back down into the therapeutic range. Starting with at least President Wilson and certainly with FDR the idea regarding government and regulation in the U.S.A. was “more is better.” For a Statist, more is indeed better: more regulation is more control is more power. Some regulation is desirable. We like our food to be pure, our drugs to be safe and effective, our purchases to live up to their claims, our water to be clean. But an excess of regulations means that everyone is guilty of something and the rules can be enforced to ‘deal with’ the supposed Undesirable of the Month. The boot on the face is that of the Statist. The Statist can be of any claimed party alignment, the bootprint is just the same.
“All regulation is about public safety” has been claimed, and that might have even been the original intent. A call for cleaner water when a river catches fire certainly seems sensible. What isn’t often said is that when the big story hit it was a case of one bad incident getting attention after many worse incidents and that that very waterway was actually already getting cleaner. But one spill got national news coverage and mindshare. The EPA that came into being to fix things might have been needed, it might not have been. Now consider how the EPA, the very thing meant to clean up and keep clean waterways, amongst other things, has managed to severely pollute multiple waterways in recent months. One might well ask, “Is this Agency really necessary?”
A regulation that once made sense, might no longer be needed. In the days of vacuum tube (or thermionic valve) radios, some designs were more expensive as they used more tubes and each one meant more supporting components as well. This lead to advertising the number of tubes as an indication of quality, to convince buyers the higher price was worthwhile for better sensitivity, selectivity, or sound quality. When the transistor came along, at first things were much the same, but the expense fell rapidly and the advertising became a gimmick. Eventually it was ruled that advertising the number of transistors in a radio was not an honest indication of quality. In 1968, this made sense. In 1978 it still made sense. By 1988 integrated circuitry meant the transistor count wasn’t very meaningful. I’ve had no luck finding the article, but I do recall sometime in the last several years there was something about dropping the rule against advertising the number of transistors. Not from an outbreak of marketing department honesty, but as nowadays so much is integrated circuitry with a huge number of transistors that advertising the count would be pointless.
Absolute deregulation, like absolute anarchy, would be insanity. That way lies rickets or the equivalent. But scrapping excess regulations should be a net benefit. Maybe two can’t be scrapped for every new one within a particular subject or agency, but it would be worthwhile to try. And in other places perhaps three or four could retire to the ash-heap of history. For the Statist this downright scary: It’s a loss of control. For the Individualist this is hope, the hope of the yearning to breathe free becoming a satisfying reality instead of mere yearning.
An Individualist is not someone utterly independent of others, nor even necessarily trying to be. The Individualist rather wishes his associations and any dependencies to be things chosen freely, with a wide selection of choices. He is not his own doctor, his own electrician, his own plumber, his own auto manufacturer, and his own farmer all rolled into one. He is someone desiring to be able to choose his physician from amongst many, to choose an electrician from amongst many, to choose a plumber from many, to choose his make and model of automobile from a wide variety, and to buy such food as he pleases. Not for him is the life of government prescription, “Thou shalt have the physician thy bureaucrats so decree. And only the decreed treatments, and only to the decreed degree.” He is the Statist’s nightmare, for he is variable. And he brazenly recognizes the angel mold for being the Perillos device it really is. Quite naturally, the last thing he desires is more government and more regulation.
You might find a higher percentage of the rural population acting Individualist and speaking out in favor it than in more urban areas. There are urban Individualists as well, though they might be quieter or more swamped by Statists. This gives the impression of a Rural-Urban divide. Similarly the claims of individualism are more apt to be spoken of those on the political Right and benefits of state power and uniformity by the political Left. Words are cheap (I’m giving these words away right now!) but actions speak truth. People desire Individualism – at least for themselves. “There ought to be a law” is in general the Statist approach: Conform to MY ideals! The Individualist is not against all laws, but the needlessly interfering ones. Theft, the uncompensated taking from one not freely giving, is and ought be illegal. Demanding that lighting be only by some limited means, for example, is not rightly any of the law’s business. How one has light is one’s own lookout, whether one chooses LED, fluorescent lamp, incandescent lamp, or oil lamp. Demanding it be one or not be others is an overdose of regulation and is toxic to liberty. To end or nearly end one method the way to do it is not to make it illegal, but to offer better as seen by the customer.
What regulations exist forbidding the manufacture and sale of phonograph cylinders? As far as I know: none. Yet they are historical artifacts, not things sold in great quantity today. They were not banned. They were superseded. Disc records took up less space, were easier to mass produce, and provided longer play time. Eventually compact discs and digital distribution came along, pushing cylinders further into history. An entire industry transformed, a few times, largely without government intervention. We didn’t need a new drug, nor more of an old one.
And yet some insist that things are different today and we need more regulations, big brother’s universal helper. But we know that if we take on even more of those, we’ll get an overdose.
 Vitamin A is similar, but I went with D as it seems to take a lot more for a lot longer for things to get truly bad. As shown by the last several decades, an excess of government is generally more a chronic than acute affliction.
 Saw that one spreading on Twitter a while back.
 Alright, the number of transistors could be advertised, but they had to be used as transistors and contribute to the radio’s performance as a radio. Counting transistors used as diodes, or one just stuck onto a circuit board wouldn’t cut it. The result was that by and large rather than giving an honest count, no count was given. It was easiest to say nothing.