Some of you will shudder at this next line, and some of you will applaud. I want you to picture an America without government regulations on the private sector. An America where companies of all stripes, from the smallest hardware store to the biggest oil conglomerate, were given completely free reign to run their businesses however they wanted, making up their own rules along the way. I want you to imagine a world where the markets regulated themselves, wholly and fully, without any intervention whatsoever from local, State, or Federal government. If your imagination is struggling to draw a picture here, allow me to paint one for you.
Below is a bullet list of the tremendous, radical changes we'd see in the private sector. Some of you will surely agree with these points, while others will say I'm wrong, but I defy anyone questioning this list to counter with an example of a business regulating itself in that specific regard when the government didn't intervene. Everyone else, call those opponents out and demand that they provide this evidence. Let'ssee how many pro-market types will find themselves struggling on this subject, shall we? I'll buy someone dinner if they can provide an example on every single one of these points, and I'm incapable of providing three to counter that. It won't be an expensive dinner, and it'll be served in Binghamton, New York, but alas, the offer will stand!
◊ Labor hours would increase. Don't get too comfy with that nine to five, 40-hour work week of yours. Without government regulations and unions fighting to keep them around, companies would undoubtedly return to increasing the hours of their employees in an effort to drive up more profits. You might be thinking this would be a good thing, as you could use the extra hours, right? Keep reading.
◊ Decreased compensation. Companies will be looking to hire the cheapest labor they can get their hands on. Companies like Wal-Mart, already in hot water for poor worker compensation, would quickly ditch the minimum wage and lower salaries for most of their work force. Their internal justification for losing you as an employee? "Someone will be willing to work for this wage, even if you aren't."
◊ The return of the fabled "company store": Are you familiar with the old labor song "sixteen tons?" In it, the singer talks about owing their soul to the company store. Many people don't understand what this means, but thanks to one Mr. Marshall, a teacher of mine at Binghamton's West Middle School many years ago, I do. "Company store" referenced the debt bondage that was popular in those times. Many companies deployed what is commonly referred to as a "truck system," where the company would offer goods (food, clothing, etc.) as compensation for labor, rather than offering currency as payment. You'd go in to these "stores" and be told you could have whatever you wanted... but then you were in debt to the company, and would need to work off that debt, most likely for the rest of your life. They were wildly popular before the government banished them. They'd come back in a big way without government regulations.
◊ Workplace safety would deteriorate. Companies would gradually reduce their own workplace safety standards in pursuit of added profits, some more marginally than others. We've seen countless examples of instances where weak safety rules have resulted in workplace casualties, not only in the United States, but around the world.
◊ Product quality would suffer. The private sector has proved time and time again that they are, simply put, unreliable in the field of product quality and safety. Companies will do anything for a buck, and that includes cutting corners in manufacturing, skimping out on product testing for safety, lowering their own quality guidelines, and using inferior parts/ ingredients in an effort to decrease their own costs. I reference this book every time I talk on the subject of government regulation, so I apologize if you're sick of hearing me say this, but read Upton Sinclair's classic novel The Jungle, available free on the Internet, and you aren't going to argue with this point... or many of the others here, I should add.
◊ Public Safety risks. Not only would the safety and quality of products suffer, but the safety of the consumers themselves would suffer as well. Automobiles, airplanes, cruise ships, taxis... any private sector transportation you rely on daily or occasionally would be suspect for massive decreases in quality. Airlines are notorious for skimping out on safety standards, or barely meeting government standards, sometimes resulting in horrific accidents and tremendous losses of life. Cruise ships have done the same. Automakers have ignored government regulations accidentally, resulting in defective vehicles that cause accidents... I don't want to imagine what might happen if they flatly deny those regulations altogether.
◊ Decreased Customer Service: The days of "the customer is always right" are long gone today; that slogan's death started in the 1980's, and today, companies present their products as items you can't live without; you need them more than they need you. That's how companies can outsource call center operations to foreign countries, submitting their customers to service representatives who can barely speak English and don't understand the company's products and/ or services intimately, often leaving you feeling as though the company doesn't give two sheeps about you. You feel that way because they don't. To them, you're little more than a junkie's needle, pumping that sweet green sugar into the veins of their shareholders. You're a number. And with fewer regulations, the company can cut more corners in labor and job sourcing, because how you view the company matters not. How you profit the company matters a lot.
◊ Bigger executive compensation: There's a silver lining in all of this... if you're a corporate executive, anyway. Your compensation is going to skyrocket, even beyond the sickening executive compensation rates we see today. If you're rich, you'll get richer. But hey, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know yourself, right? After all, that's why you want de-regulations so bad... isn't it?