Saturday, November 5, 2011

The High Cost of Government Mandated Discrimination: DOMA and the Regulatory State

Conservatives frequently talk about the cost of regulations. For instance, Freedomworks, a well-known conservative organization, published a piece called The Hidden Cost of Regulation. It said: “Complying with regulations is not cheap,” noting that regulations aren’t paid for by just corporations, but by “the entire economy.” It notes that consumers pay higher prices as well, due to these regulations, and that they “act as a drag on economic growth.”

Allow me to add two other points Freedomworks did not mention, but which I believe they would agree with. 1) Motives of the regulators do not change costs imposed by the regulations. That is, costs are not lower if the motives of regulators are good. 2) Costs are not changed if regulations are imposed by one political party rather than the other. In other words, the cost of Republican-imposed regulations would be just the same if Democrats had been the guilty party.

With this in mind, let us turn to a set of regulations Republicans put into place, with the claimed motive of “protecting the family:” The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

On the surface, DOMA doesn’t appear to create new regulations. It says: “In determining the means of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” It sounds simple, but then some of the worst results come out of the simplest of regulations.

Until DOMA, for the entirety of American history, marriage was defined at the state level. Over the last couple of centuries the federal government and the states have woven a web of rules and regulations around the marriage contract. Until DOMA the federal government accepted state-recognized marriages as valid on the federal level. Now there are federal regulations that don’t correspond with the laws in 10 states and the District of Columbia. 

To read the full article go here.

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