Jon Sanders: The Witty Deregulator

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If nothing else, English majors have one trait in common: They use fancy words that few others can define.

In that respect, Jon Sanders is the quintessential English major. When he’s not using an unusual word — a word that immediately makes the listener seek a dependable thesaurus — he’s making a literary or pop culture reference: maybe Shakespeare, maybe Monty Python, or maybe vintage Reese’s commercials.

Whatever he’s saying, though, Jon always adds a humorous, offbeat twist. It’s an attribute that makes his writing unique, and it has been an undisputed ally in his tenure at the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based free-market think tank.

As JLF’s Directory of Regulatory Studies, Jon has the task of working to ensure that North Carolina’s regulatory environment doesn’t discourage free-market industry.

“I fervently believe in individual freedom,” Jon said. “I believe that human beings are, as economist Julian Simon described them, the ultimate resource. I believe that people, given the freedom to pursue their dreams, will create a better world.”


Economic thinker

Jon isn’t just an excellent writer and master of the English language, though. He’s also a thoughtful economist.

In fact, he often blends his liberal-arts background with his training in economic thought. He produces such unique combinations as using Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” to illustrate opportunity costs, citing Chaucer in a paper on high-cost lending (PDF download), and quoting C.S. Lewis in discussing overregulation.


Jon was one of JLF’s earliest employees. He joined in 1996, two years after graduating from N.C. State University with a degree in English literature and language and a particular interest in a career in journalism.

He didn’t meet much success in finding a journalism job. But that closed door led to an open one: JLF was expanding into studying higher education, and Jon joined the staff. He eventually transitioned to the research department. In the meantime, he returned to school at N.C. State University to pursue a master’s degree in economics.


The deregulator

Much of our nation’s political discourse focuses on tax policy — how much the government needs to take in order to function. Little attention is paid to the regulatory environment — the roadblocks that government puts in place that prevent men and women from conducting business.

To Jon, cutting regulations is a key way to free up people to be more productive and create more jobs.

“Regulations are a tax on time,” he said. “They require productive capital to be invested in compliance. Especially for small businesses, those costs add up. Small businesses don’t have the compliance and legal staff that the larger firms are able to afford.”

Since Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature in 2011, Jon points to a number of new laws that have curbed onerous regulations, including omnibus reform bills passed during the past few years.

Jon hopes to improve the economic climate for small businesses in
North Carolina by reducing burdensome regulations.
In 2013, lawmakers approved a regulatory “sunset provision” with periodic review. The new law requires agencies to review rules at least once every 10 years to see if they are still necessary. Without review, the rules would expire.

“Having this reform in North Carolina will improve the state’s climate for job creation through a leaner, more efficient regulatory environment,” Jon said.

“Other excellent laws passed include provisions preventing state environmental rules from being stricter than federal environment rules, and reforms of the appeals process between regulated parties and environment agencies,” he added.

Two other successes: Tort reform and allowing hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) in North Carolina.

Jon now promotes the REINS idea (for Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) for North Carolina, a way for the legislature to reclaim law-making authority ceded to the executive branch.

“Regulations are rules that carry the force of law, but right now very little stands in the way of any proposed regulation from taking effect,” he said.


‘Jesus and Jefferson’

Jon grew up in Garner, North Carolina, located just south of the state’s capital of Raleigh. His mom was a first-grade teacher at Wake Christian Academy. Jon went to the school K through 12.

“My mom being a teacher, we read all the time. I grew up reading. I would read anything I could get my hands on,” he said. “When I was in high school, I would read the newspaper from front to back. I particularly enjoyed the editorials.”

Growing up, Jon learned the importance of faith and freedom in his daily life. Two great influencers on his life have been Jesus Christ and Thomas Jefferson.

“Jesus frees the soul from the burdens of sin and allows us to communicate with God,” Jon said. “Jefferson’s philosophy is far reaching and discussed how individual liberty allows mankind to create a better world.”


JWPF support

To learn more about the John William Pope Foundation’s support for public-policy charities like the John Locke Foundation, click here.


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