The Relevance of the Religious Hypothetical
By Bryan Caplan
Consider two contrasting arguments against a policy rationale:
1. Your rationale could conceivably be abused for bad ends.
2. Your rationale supports many policies you yourself oppose.
It is as if I were to praise the Internet and someone were to ask me
about Josef Mengele and say: See what happens if you support
I never said that I like the CFPB. I think they did something right in a
particular instance. If you think that any support for any government
action, however beneficial, has to be judged in light of other potential
government actions, that is fine. But just say that.
My point, however, was never that Arnold’s policy rationale would be abused. My point falls under heading #2. Arnold didn’t just praise one particular CFPB decision. He offered three general rationales for consumer protection. These rationales seem to imply policies that Arnold would reject. So he should probably abandon these rationales.
To be fair, Arnold also tries to distinguish religious protection from regular consumer protection:
People can benefit from religious beliefs that are false. That makes it
more difficult to regulate religious fraud than other types of fraud.
(Do we also benefit from holding beliefs about government that are
false? In any case, public sector fraud is even harder to regulate.)
I’d like to see this argument more fleshed out. Couldn’t you just as easily say that consumers benefit from the peace of mind of Capitol One’s payment protection products, even though the products make little financial sense?