I read an article in the Hartford Courant recently that gave me pause. "Where is the liberal media?" I asked myself. "I hear about it, but I don't see it."
The article was about a new economic report from UConn that found that regulation in Connecticut caused the slow rate of small-business growth.
Headlined "State regulations hurting small business growth," the article came out alongside those of The New London Day ("As job creation stalls, state analysis indicates regulation cutbacks could help"), the Connecticut Mirror ("Report says state could regain small businesses by easing regulation") and the Fairfield County Business Journal ("Regs stymie business, study finds").
Each gave credence to the study's central claim: Regulation is a job-killer.None used "job-killer." But that could easily be extrapolated, the takeaway of any good Republican spin doctor. "GOP: Environmental rules are job killers" was the headline of a recent UPI business report.
After reading the report, I came up with another headline, one that seems as accurate as the others: "Causal link between regulation and slow small-business growth unclear." Or, how about this?
"Cause/effect? Maybe/maybe not."
"Readers should, however, be careful about inferring an exact causal link between the regulatory index and business growth," wrote author Steven P. Lanza, a professor of economics at UConn and executive editor of The Connecticut Economy, where the study was first published.
Why did the Courant's headline make it sound like the connection between regulation and small-business growth was more certain than it was?
Good question -- it's like you're reading my mind!
First, a little close reading.
The head and subhead: "Economic Regulation of Business: Market Safeguard or Development Straightjacket?" Forget about regulations that protect workers' rights, the environment, and a fair and free marketplace. It's either/or. Consumers and workers have no role to play in this economy.
Regulation is characterized as a "burden" four times. In fairness, Lanza concludes that there's a line between too much and not enough regulation. But the many thousands of wage earners with no acccess to affordable health care would surely never call a regulation like paid sick leave a "burden."
So already, regulation of business is bad, even though regulation in Connecticut, as Lanza notes, brings us nice things like "a relatively high minimum wage, a prevailing wage law, mandatory workman's compensation ... fairly rigorous land use standards [and] ... numerous endangered species statutes."
Even so, the real problem of this study is signaled by the word "freedom."
I know. How can freedom be a problem? That's exactly my point.
Questioning freedom is, for certain people, like questioning oxygen.
Freedom, they argue, is a natural consequence of all the progress made in human history that is given to us by God. To question it is like questioning the Almighty Himself. Perhaps that's why no one did.
But by not questioning what the author means when he says that the core of his study rests on "indexes of economic and personal freedom," journalists in Connecticut missed what this study truly stands for.