I think Matt Welch is reading too much into what I wrote on beer deregulation. When I say that regulation in and of itself is pretty meaningless, what I mean is that for better or worse liberals, conservatives, and libertarians often treat regulation or deregulation as some magic bullet. You often hear on the left that we just need to regulate such and such and then all will be fine and good with the world, while libertarians and conservatives too often ignore the possibility that deregulation can also benefit the well-connected at the expense of the little guy.
The reason I say that transparency in government is a more important starting point is that I want to find mechanisms that can make both the regulatory process and our ability to effectively implement deregulations a more transparent, fair, and less easily manipulated process.
Certainly on Matt’s final point I am mostly in agreement:
Regulations so often piss me off because they so often fall disproportionately on the backs of the little guy, while the big guy–even/especially the one whose misconduct precipitated the regulation in the first place–walks off with a well-lobbied exemption. Generally speaking, the fewer activities are illegal, the freer us opposable-thumbs types are.
I’d just point out that this is not always the case. Sometimes what looks like deregulation is just a new batch of regulations written for a new batch of lobbyists. Or new laws can be reinterpreted to benefit industry instead of consumers. Credit cards are a good example of this.
On a final note, I think we can all agree that we need to deregulate Oregon’s lemonade stand industry.