We don't need the government to force businesses to spend half their profits on accountants, because free markets police themselves. Those that serve customers well are rewarded with more customers; those that do well for investors attract them. Bad guys who cheat get a reputation for cheating. They lose customers, lose investors and go out of business. Think of how eBay works. The selling price of each item is determined by auction, so buyers and sellers both get the best possible deal. Sellers are rated by their customers, so the "community" quickly identifies cheaters.
The competition of the market protects us better than the ever-mounting pile of rules legislators pass. And it keeps the costs reasonable, because the private sector has to bear its own burdens, while government forces its costs on others.
The market doesn't catch everything -- there will always be fraud on eBay, and, on a larger scale, scams like Enron. But Sarbanes-Oxley won't catch all the fraud either.
Competition will catch more of it. The more I've watched the markets work, the more impressed I've become with how competition solves problems with speed and flexibility rarely seen in government-imposed solutions.
Enron and the other recent business disasters are evidence of the market working. Government regulators didn't discover the deceit. Enron's lies were revealed when private security analysts raised questions and private investors started dumping the stock.
The cheaters have been caught, and the cheating stopped. The bad guys can't do it anymore. No one is laughing all the way to the bank.
No one, that is, except the accountants the government is forcing businesses to hire.
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