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Donald Trump, G.K. Chesterton, and the 10,000 Commandments

During his campaign, Donald Trump promised he would get rid of two regulations for every one that he added. Why make such a pledge? Because regulations come with all sorts of compliance costs. How many lawyers and accountants does it take to help businesses comply with tax regulations? Safety regulations might require a business to buy bright yellow vests for their employees, and that’s a compliance cost too. Then there are also required certifications, and training, and it all adds up.

In fact, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – an American free market think tank – estimates federal regulations (this doesn’t even include state or city regulations) cost US taxpayers $1.9 trillion annually as of 2017. That works out to $15,000 each year for the average American household.

In this year’s edition of their annual regulations report “Ten Thousand Commandments 2018” the CEI gave Trump credit for reducing some regulations. But they figured it amounted to bumping the metaphorical 10,000 in their title down to 9,999.

This secular think tank has picked an intriguing title for their regulation report. “Ten Thousand Commandments” seems to be a reference to a very religious statement attributed to G.K. Chesterton:

“If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments.”

Chesterton’s point? When a culture rejects God and His call for self-control and self-regulation, the State steps in, trying to replace Him and his Law. But they do a muck of both. When everyone is looking out for number one, and isn’t trying to reflect God, or look out for his neighbor’s interests, then instead of compassion and care, we will have to have regulation and legislation.

So how then should Christians view regulations in a godless culture? As a sometimes necessary evil. They are costly, but there is a reason for many of them. However, in the midst of 1,000-page healthcare bills and 500-page omnibus budgets, we can be sure they are sometimes a very unnecessary evil too. Whittling them down isn’t going to impact the country’s spiritual health – no matter how successful his efforts, Donald Trump isn’t going to take the US from Ten Thousand to just Ten Commandments. But with this type of effort many countries could have a positive impact on their material wealth.


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