Denialists’ Deck of Cards: State and Federal Issues

Okay industry lobbyists in training, you’ve started just making up arguments to confuse everyone. That’s a method of confusing issues. Now you should start confusing individuals’ roles in the policy process. It’s time to start playing government officials off each other.

i-c0142cd2d1230b072c7f2544c00a6b67-8h.jpg If you don’t like what the federal government is doing, say that it is a state issue.

Of course, if the states are active on the issue, you should argue that it is a federal issue, and that state action will create a “patchwork” of conflicting requirements. The “patchwork” argument is also an effective tool to broaden opposition to a measure.


In the 1970s, a variety of industries attacked the Federal Trade Commission because it took an aggressive stance on a number of consumer protection issues. The specter of deregulation was raised, supported by the idea that the federal agency was usurping state authority.

But, in the 1990s, after federal regulatory agencies took weaker stances on consumer protection issues than state authorities, the industry switched its argument: now, states were the problem, and there were making appeals to the value of federal “uniformity” and preemption of state law. I’m willing to bet that when the democrats take over, industry will flip flop again, and want regulation at the state level.

The broader you can make a measure, the more industries will oppose it. For instance, industry groups said they opposed Senator Hollings’ privacy bill (S. 2201) because it would have only regulated online businesses: “Technology companies have been working diligently for years to protect consumer data collected online,” said Robert Holleyman, president of the Business Software Alliance. “Singling these companies out for additional regulation and liability will not promote these efforts, and may hinder the growth of electronic commerce.” You see, by trying to pull in offline businesses, many others would oppose the legislation. The tactic broadens the coalition of businesses against the measure.


One response to “Denialists’ Deck of Cards: State and Federal Issues”

  1. bigTom

    It should be a legitimate interest of business (as opposed to using
    state/versus federal as a smokescreen for opposition), to want regulation at the broadest jurisdicational level possible, worldwide would be best, so that one product fits all.

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