We’ve all heard the expression, “Opinions are like — (a certain part of the human anatomy); everybody has one.” Potty humor aside, there is a difference between informed opinion and uninformed opinion.

This newspaper publishes both, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is up to the reader to separate the two. Informed opinion is supported by facts; uninformed opinion is not. A case in point is the recent letter by Michael Hale, information technology consultant, who attacks columnist George Will for his views on business regulations. It appears that Hale has drunk the poisoned drink poured by the radical left, which seems intent on pitting the interests of the “haves” against the “have-nots” (an incendiary phrase in itself, but Hale’s choice of words).

Hale claims the U.S. economy is not overregulated (Will’s opinion), but underregulated (Hale’s opinion). In order to convince me, Hale would have to show that the benefits of regulation exceed its costs. Hale does not go there. Indeed, he seems blissfully ignorant of numerous economic studies that focus on the benefits and costs of government regulation. The body of evidence, at least to this writer, supports the premise that in most instances the costs of regulation exceed its benefits. Moreover, there is an accepted body of economic literature that explains why this is a logical outcome of a political system that enables — indeed encourages — the regulators to become “captive” to the interests of the regulated.

Hale might at least have confronted the information in a new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute titled “Ten Thousand Commandments,” that reveals the vast amount of private-sector capital drowned in the sea of government regulations (http://cei.org/sites/default/files/Wayne%20Crews%20-%2010,000%20Commandments%202011.pdf). If accurate, the report’s conclusion is mind-boggling. The cost of complying with federal regulations amounts to $1.7 trillion. To put that number in perspective, it’s larger than the president’s own anticipated 2011 budget deficit of $1.6 trillion. In fact, the regulatory burden imposed on businesses across America amounts to 50 percent of total government spending in one year alone. Moreover, the cost to businesses of abiding by existing government regulations towers over the revenue brought in by all income taxes, in every bracket.

There’s more. According to the CEI report, the compliance cost of regulation is larger than all corporate pretax profits in 2008 and dwarfs estimated 2010 individual income tax receipts by nearly 50 percent. Compliance costs amount to more than $8,000 per American employee.

A discriminating reader will not confuse “information” with “information technology.” The technology of information is one thing; the quality of information is quite another. Like so, informed opinions are one thing; uninformed opinions are quite another.

Robert Hebert


Baton Rouge