"That the government is best which governs least."

Is unnecessary government interference hurting your business? Yes 90% No 10%

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Well, this was a loaded question. "At least you weren't pretending to be objective," one reader chided. No, we weren't. But the opportunity to check the "no" box was there. And only one in 10 of you did, so it looks as though we touched a nerve. Not only did this poll garner the best overall response of any we've done, but respondents were in far greater agreement on this particular question than on any we've ever asked. That was true regardless of the type of company you run or whether your business is local, national, or international. Your answers to the poll and your impassioned comments scribbled in the margins left little doubt that this is a heated issue.

How much existing regulation would you say is unnecessary?
Most of it 83% Little or none of it 10% All of it 7%

* * *

The message is clear. There's too much regulation and "the added costs to meet regulations are killing profits and incentives." Nearly all of you acknowledged the necessity of at least some regulation, but most believe "those regulations that make no sense should be pulled." Compliance takes time and resources, which are in limited supply. Even if you want to comply, "far too much time, effort, and energy are spent trying to figure out the right thing to do." And that, to many of you, seems unfair and just plain dumb. "Having the most productive members of society keep books for the government according to its ridiculously complex rules and regulations is a criminal waste of resources."

In what areas have you had the most significant problems with laws and regulations?*
Permits/licensing 49%

Federal taxes 44%

State taxes 38%

The environment 33%

Workers' benefits 32%

Inspections/standards 27%

Hiring practices 25%

Land zoning and real estate 20%

Other 15%

Export/import restrictions 9%

* * *

What's the main problem here?*
Regulators don't

understand business 37%

Too much regulation 33%

Regulations don't make sense 25%

All of the above 16%

* * *

You came down hard on the regulators. Not only don't they understand business, but "they don't care" and "they won't listen." They can't possibly understand you, because they "have never signed the front of a paycheck." Regulators won't help you solve the problem; "they only tell you that it exists." And collect the money. Many people groused about inconsistency in enforcement. "My competitors aren't complying and can therefore provide their services at a lower cost." You see a lot of overlap, with "too many agencies duplicating efforts." And even if you want to comply, you must contend with a "lack of knowledge about the regulations and conflicting opinions of the regulators." And in many cases "national standards don't take regional variations into account. We have to test for problems we don't have." But at least one of you admitted that regulators may have their hands tied. "Regulators need the power, and the incentive, to modify standards in particular circumstances where they make no sense."

What can be done? Do any of the candidates have a clue? George Bush got the most votes, but there's quite a bit of political unrest out there. One-third of you did not choose Bush, Buchanan, Clinton, or Brown, the only four major candidates that remain at this writing. One person said he'd vote for either Pat Buchanan or Jerry Brown, possibly an indication of just how desperate some of you are for change. Only 42% want either Bush or Clinton, the likely nominees, in the White House. The Libertarian candidate, Andre Marrou, got 5% of the vote -- exceeded by only Bush, Buchanan, and Tsongas -- entirely with write-ins. Some of you want as president anyone "who has met a payroll and made a profit for 10 years." That should be music to H. Ross Perot's ears.


If the election were held today, for whom would you vote?
Bush 37%

Buchanan 20%

Tsongas 11%

Undecided 6%

Clinton 5%

Marrou 5%

Brown 4%

Kerrey 1%

Duke 1%

Harkin 1%

Would that candidate be able to improve the regulatory situation? Yes No
Bush 27% 73%

Buchanan 64% 36%

Tsongas 43% 57%

Clinton 37% 63%

Marrou 97% 3%

Brown 37% 63%

Kerrey 67% 33%

Duke 100% 0%

Harkin 50% 50%

The only candidate to have both a reasonably large and reasonably confident following is Pat Buchanan. If you created a "perceived-effectiveness index" by multiplying the percentage of votes a candidate got by the percentage of the candidate's supporters who feel he can do anything about regulation, you would get the following ranking: Buchanan, Bush, Marrou, Tsongas, Clinton, Brown. -- Christopher Caggiano

*Note: Multiple responses account for total percentages above 100% n