Can More Regulation Ever Be Good For Business?

Can More Regulation Ever Be Good For Business?Primary season is in full swing and newspapers this morning were emblazoned with headlines about yesterday's New Hampshire primary. Political pundits may have something to say about who among the candidates they prefer, but so too does the business community. Candidates of both parties have expressed fiery populist sentiments, bashing big business for its callowness and lack of concern for the little guy, and Silicon Alley Insider, for one, is alarmed. Yesterday the blog rounded up the candidates' positions on matters that matter most to business. In a post titled, "New Hampshire 'Change' Good for Country, Bad for Business," they concluded:
Growing income inequality and general economic uncertainty--for which big business and Wall Street are easy scapegoats--and a rising tide of economic populism will likely lead to more protectionism, higher taxes, and more regulation no matter who wins.
Putting aside the obvious question of whether policies that are bad for America are good for American business, the Silicon Alley post begs the question: is increasing regulation necessarily bad for business? We've previously posted how, in the wake of a series of safety recalls, business looked to Washington "to relieve the burden of uneven local regulation and reassure customers." Today on the Huffington Post, Nanette Fondas argues that business shouldn't fear the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) either:
American business firms can handle paid leave hands down, because they know there is more to profitability than a single-minded focus on cost.... [Companies] can build structures, such as teams, to accommodate people on leave. Business leaders understand better than most that a global human resources strategy requires retaining workers who embody the organization's talent, loyalty, intellectual capital, and institutional history. Becoming more family-friendly is highly compatible with this.
And with recent surveys indicating that over 50% of workers list achieving work/life balance as their top goal for 2008, helping rather than hindering your employees' efforts in this regard may in fact be key to retaining them. Regulation that's good for workers, may sometimes actually be good for business.

(Image of law books by losiek, CC 2.0)