Stephen Gandel

Overregulation has been a persistent economic bogeyman. Presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry says government regulations are “strangling the American entrepreneurship out there.” House Speaker John Boehner says cutting regulation is the best way to boost jobs. Even President Barack Obama has talked about eliminating some government rules. In mid-October the World Bank released its annual ranking of countries on the basis of ease of doing business; it took into account the number of regulations, tax rates, the time it takes to start a business and other factors. Out of 183 countries, the U.S. was deemed the fourth easiest place in the world to do business, unchanged from the year before. What’s more, a number of lower-ranked nations–including South Africa, China and Brazil–have had much faster-growing economies than the U.S. in the past five years. Neil Gregory, a deputy director for indicators at the World Bank, says regulations kill some jobs but create others. He says rules that promote small-business lending are essential. The search for the true job killer continues.

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