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There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…So goes the story of the regulation of the United States economy, according to this EconTalk guest, John Cochrane. Cochrane is concerned about the effects of creeping regulation and what he sees as a lack of respect for the rule of law in government today. He also sees policy debates today like bad marriages, with each side just shouting over one another. He aspires to change the nature of this debate.

1. Both Roberts and Cochrane are anxious to get rid of barriers to innovation, but they approach this with different rationales. How does the moral case for the removal of such barriers differ from the practical case? Which side are you on, and why?
2. Do you agree with Cochrane that economic growth has been consistently ignored in policy and campaign rhetoric? What evidence can you cite for this omission? What do you think needs to happen for the issue of economic growth to take center stage again?

3. Cochrane likens well-intentioned reforms such as the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank to “the little old lady who swallowed a fly.” To what extent do you think this is an apt analogy, and how sanguine are you that effective leadership is the cure, as Cochrane suggests? (You may want to revisit this 2012 episode with Cochrane, in which he and Roberts focused on health care issues.)

4. What do you think of Cochrane’s “policy trading” scheme? (He suggests, for example, that we might make a “trade” with environmentalists of a carbon tax for a reduction in crony environmental subsidies.) Is this a realistic strategy for change?