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They Say It Can’t Be Done: Examining the Need for Regulatory Reform

In This Is Capitalism, Christina Elson, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University, examines the need for regulatory reform across industries, citing the provocative film They Say It Can’t Be Done.

It’s a core question that animates our work at the Wake Forest University Center for the Study of Capitalism (CSC). It’s also the central theme of a new documentary produced by filmmaker Patrick Reasonover, a CSC outreach affiliate.

The provocative film is called They Say It Can’t Be Done. Released in late March 2021, it has already stirred much interest and debate. Its thesis is that first, certain U.S. regulatory regimens – especially in agriculture and food science, healthcare and biomedicine, and environmental protection and sustainability – are obsolete and undercut innovation. These systems were built for a world dominated by traditional industry verticals. Many regulators do not understand how the convergence of technologies such as AI and synthetic biology is blurring the boundaries of industry.

Second, too much regulation is driven by parochial lobbying interests. These regulations have little to do with safety; too often, they are the handiwork of industry titans using the political system to make it hard for new businesses to flourish. Certain regulations also bring with them the “law of unintended consequences,” an economic tenet that describes the effects of unforeseen repercussions that are often worse than the problems they were designed to solve. One-sized regulations do not fit all.

So how did we get here? It was not out of malice. Most regulations are rooted in legitimate concerns. But sometimes regulatory regimens are inflexible or fail to take into account new developments or new technology. They lead to economic stagnation. We don’t necessarily need fewer regulations; we need smarter ones…Read more

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