When we talk about reducing crime there is a belief that the laws we have in place act as a deterrent to would-be criminals. This article from the Heritage Foundation talks in some depth about the idea.
If this idea is true for individuals, it should also be true for companies, which are just a collection of individuals. Yet many of those who want more and stricter laws for individuals are the same people who argue against adding any regulations to industry.
The standard argument against this is that regulations cost jobs. While this may be true, it is also true that not having regulations can cost jobs and sometimes lives. The BP oil spill, for example, was caused by corporations cutting corners and ignoring regulations and it cost lives, jobs and economic activity.
As a result, the BP CEO in charge when these decisions occurred spent zero days in jail and paid no fine, but he did receive an $18 million dollar severance package – not much a deterrent for other CEOs contemplating a similar avoidance of rules and regulations.
Similarly, the excessive risks taken by the banking industry cost millions of jobs when the housing bubble burst. The bubble was seen by many well before it occurred, yet nothing was done to avoid this crisis and no one was held accountable for the actions that resulted in the recession.
If more and stricter laws work to prevent crimes, then they should be used to prevent all crimes. As Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan stated, “But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens … all citizens are equal before the law.”
Holding one segment to a different moral standard than the rest is un-American and unjust, no matter the rationalization.