Deregulation’s Thermidor?

Perhaps chastened by Senator McCain’s earlier call for him to be fired [sic: to submit his resignation], SEC Chair Christopher Cox seems to have decided last week that some preemptive strike was in order. On Friday, with little fanfare, Cox announced the end of the SEC’s four-year experiment with “voluntary supervision” of Wall Street’s (former) investment banks. In doing so, Cox bluntly confessed that “[t]he last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work.”

At least as significant as the mothballing of this particular initiative might be the issuance of such a statement by Cox, among the leading architects – and boosters – of deregulation during his fifteen years in Congress.

Surely it remains early for post-mortems on the de-regulatory state that has arguably been the dominant regulatory project of the last three decades. But is it possible that between the striking explosion in the size of the federal government over the last eight years, and the chaos that deregulation has recently wrought on Wall Street, we’re reaching the end of the end of “the era of big government“?

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