Chapter News, News

How the Public Sees Business Rules

The New York Times: Off the Charts, By FLOYD NORRIS

Americans are split almost down the middle on the issue of whether there is too much regulation of business or too little. Residents of most other countries are more likely to think more regulation is needed. But there is widespread agreement around the world on one point: the current level of regulation is not right.

In surveys of 1,000 people in each of 25 countries late last year, Edelman, a public relations firm, asked, “When it comes to government regulation of business, do you think that your government regulates business too much, not enough or about the right amount?

In the United States, 31 percent said that there was too much regulation. As can be seen in the accompanying chart, that is a higher proportion than in any other country. But 37 percent of Americans said more regulation was needed.

Regulation is likely to be an issue in this year’s presidential election. Republican candidates have asserted that economic growth would increase immediately if the Dodd-Frank law, which was passed in 2010 and increased bank regulation, were repealed. The president has said he sees a lack of regulation before he took office as one cause of the financial crisis. Those views reflect the beliefs of majorities in each party.

“Just like a presidential election, you’ve got the swing voters as your deciders,” said Steve Lombardo, the chief executive of the Edelman unit that conducted the surveys. Independents are more closely divided, but more of them think increased regulation is needed than believe there is too much regulation.

In only three of the 25 countries — Sweden, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates — are as many as a third of respondents happy with the level of regulation.

Historically, the clamor for more regulation often comes after economic problems that perhaps could have been prevented. That has often made even pro-business politicians more open to imposing new rules. That seems to be happening in Britain, where the government, led by the Conservative Party, is pushing for more regulation of banks and has been critical of high bonuses for bankers. The poll indicates that nearly half of British respondents think there is too little regulation, while fewer than a fifth think there is too much.

In some countries, demands for more regulation may actually be calls for more effective regulation. “Italy is one of the most heavily bureaucratic countries in the world,” Mr. Lombardo said. “They have rules. They just don’t follow them.” In Italy, 56 percent of the respondents called for more regulation. Among the members of the European Union that were surveyed, the figures were higher only in Spain and Ireland, both countries that have experienced sharp recessions that some say were brought on by ineffective bank regulation.

Germany, currently the most successful economy in Europe, ranks second to the United States in the proportion of people who think there is too much regulation, with 28 percent. But that is well below the 42 percent figure for those who want more regulation.

While the Chinese economy has done well, it and Hong Kong, which was treated separately in the survey, are the countries where respondents were least likely to think there was too much regulation, and among the most likely to think more rules were needed.