By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA — In the business world of today, there is much more to worry about than just the bottom line.
Entrepreneurs are forced to not only appeal to consumers, but they must also comply with federal, state and local regulations, keep an eye out for upcoming laws that will affect their business and update every procedure, piece of equipment and human resources file according to the latest protocol.
On top of that, they must set aside funds to defend themselves against lawsuits and legal actions that may threaten their business if they do not meet the appropriate levels of compliance that have been ordered by the U.S. Congress, the state Legislature or the local city council.
“The chief business of the American people is business,” President Calvin Coolidge told the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1925.
But since that time, the chief business of the American people has evolved to be something much more intricate — a preoccupation with complying with overbearing standards and procedure mandated by written law and enforced by the almighty grip of the state.
If entrepreneurs are lucky enough, they can scrape together enough of their profits to hire experienced and well-connected power brokers to either dissuade or persuade certain lawmakers about legislation on their behalf, otherwise known as lobbyists.
To that end, it’s the classic chicken or the egg causality dilemma that is often tossed back and forth in public discourse. Are there more laws and regulations because of increasing numbers of lobbyists, or do more lobbyists exist because of the growing mountain of regulations that stream from legislative chambers and town halls across the country?
What about a third scenario, one that focuses less on the number of people involved and more on their profession and their modus operandi?
What about recognizing that most lawmakers in this country, the ones who craft the rules and regulations that businesses must follow, are actually lawyers themselves?
Aren’t they are writing legislation with the knowledge and intent that contravention of the regulations they adopt will necessarily require businesses and entrepreneurs to seek the services of lawyers?
It’s like creating a lawyer stimulus package with each new bill signed into law.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010 by President Barack Obama, for example, already has been the focus of more than 30 high-profile lawsuits even before it has gone into effect, providing a short-term boon to hundreds law firms across the nation.
As the health care law demonstrates, the level of complex language now involved in the governmental process is enough to increase regulations, inflate the costs of doing business and discourage any individual citizen from opening and maintaining a business.
“What indeed are all the repealing, explaining, and amending laws, which fill and disgrace our voluminous codes, but so many monuments of deficient wisdom?” pondered James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 62.
When members of the law profession create the very laws they will serve under, and those laws are expressly written so as to invite the future services of lawyers, what else could the business-loving American entrepreneur see that as but an aversion to their craft?
At times, there may be the case of an over-complicated law that needs clarification through the legal system. But in other instances, it amounts to a case of questionable ethics and a measureable conflict of interest.
The California Voting Rights Act of 2001, drafted by Seattle law professor Joaquin Avila and San Francisco lawyer Robert Rubin, includes framework language guaranteeing certain minority groups election to local office.
Since the passage of the bill in 2002, Avila and Rubin have personally collected and billed local governments $4.3 million while representing clients seeking compensation under the law, according to the Associated Press, and have so far been the only two lawyers to ever bring forth lawsuits on the law.
While these two bad apples may not be representative of the entire legal profession, it is beyond question that the perverse incentives exist and may continue if they are not addressed.
Yaël Ossowski is the bureau chief for FloridaWatchdog.org. Contact him at Yael@FloridaWatchdog.org and follow @YaelOss