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Chicken or Lag?

© John Sherffius

So, now that we’ve seen how well deregulation works, how long do we have to wait before we stop doing it?



  1. patriotsgt wrote:

    How much is deregulation and how much is poor performance? If it’s the latter, which I am sure is a great contributer, then growing the gov’t and adding 2400 pages of new regulations will only make it less efficient. Why do they cry about not enough people or needing couple extra laws AFTER there is an emergency? I’ve worked in the Gov. The mantra is it’s not my fault, we need more money, an I inherited this mess. There are so many different agencies and departments they other famous saying is “thats not our responsibility”. Too big is a problem.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    I am curious what is behind the obsession with the number of pages that make up a statute or regulation. Why does that matter?

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  3. Semalu wrote:

    How long do we have to wait before we stop doing it you ask??? We will have to wait until the end of the American dream. That’s all. In my opinion, this is one of the net costs (symptoms?) of eliminating poverty. That the dream sometimes wobbles could be blamed on consumerism, open markets, capitalism, irresponsible investments and on government interference or lack of any of the above… but most of all, blame it on greed. Not “their” greed, nor “their” fault….it’s “our greed and our fault”. Its rather ironic really, but we really are the ones that create the pressure applied to our markets. What with our mantras of “more more more” and “now now now”. Think about it the next time you drool over an iPad, or want to buy that Mercedes SLK or seek out a mortgage for a 4 bedroom home with a 3 car garage, all the while making enough money to put your kids through some Ivy League University ……we have evolved into thinking that all these things are our “right” instead of as the luxuries that they really are. The right to pursue happiness?

    The pressure cooker required to constantly expand and (artificially) grow our economies to support that new “right” must ultimately reach a critical temperature that will result in a melt down. Fortunately the new stability points found after each melt down has still resulted in a net gain for our way of living. Frankly, why not compare our way of life with its set of problems, to some anonymous third world countries with their set of problems; Whose set of problems would you rather have? So our markets have wobbled yet again… our dream is still alive. As far as I am concerned they can keep on wobbling if it gives me the kind of opportunities I would never see as an average citizen of “insert here the name of your pick of third world countries”. Given the long history of these market wobbles, and given that our standard of living has still managed to improve dramatically over the decades, I would suggest the secret to success is already in our own hands. Don’t like losing that 4 bedroom home? Well, there is nothing stopping you from a little self discipline. Buy what you can afford not everything that you want. That way you may just survive the wobbles relatively unscathed. Personally, and in answer to your question, I hope they…and we… never stop doing it.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  4. The problem with America is that there are too many Americans in it.

    I think that the real reason that shit falls apart and ultimately no amount of regulation will hold it together is that we don’t grow up believing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone wants a job, but nobody wants to work.

    The machine would run better if we were all Japanese, but we aren’t and won’t ever be, because we’re all too scared of being Soviets.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  5. Sammy wrote:

    Maybe the problem is not too much or not enough regulation but enforcement of existing regulation.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  6. Sammy wrote:

    @Starluna: I think the obsession with the number of pages making up a statute points to the over-complication of things that could possibly be simplified. I think the obsession with the page length spending bills has more to do with whose special interests are being met and/or exempted.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  7. patriotsgt wrote:

    Thanks Sammy.
    Yes starluna, 2400 page HCR that still has not been read through by anyone who voted for it. HHS, IRS, CBO, the 170 new agencies created by it, Medicare all are still trying to decifer it. Perhaps you could lend them a hand. The next 2000 page financial reform, won’t be fully deciphered or understood until Obama is up for reelection, unless of course you help them and square it away.
    We don’t need to overcomplicate, although that is a way for academics to hold power, it really can be done much simpler, efficient and untimately better. Unless you want to share your better ideas that is. Welcome back from your trip.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  8. Don wrote:

    I spent a good part of my working life as a Fed in the natural resource management arena. I read regs, wrote regs, reviewed regs, edited regs, fought regs, ignored regs, and complied with regs. The necessity of regulation in a society as complex as ours, to me, is a given. The promulgation of regs every time something goes wrong is, unfortunately, a knee-jerk reaction by those who assume the existing regulations are inadequate and fail to really look at the cause/effect of the failure. The egg fiasco is a good example.

    The distribution of salmonella infected eggs is a violation of existing regulations (as well as common sense, for that matter). The regulations split the monitoring of chicken/egg operations between the FDA and Dept. of Ag. Why? I’m guessing because eggs are used in serum development, that someone thought FDA seemed to be the proper place to put the regulation. But Dept of Ag is responsible for the regulatory enforcement of virtually our entire food supply (except for supplements that aren’t really regulated by anyone).

    Two agencies, two very different missions, two different Federal departments (and we know departments don’t talk/play real well together) so we’ve created a scenario where a very important consumer food item is inappropriately monitored by an agency with virtually no experience with food distribution oversight.

    Do we need more regulations in this case? How about a resounding NO! Do we need to redo existing regulations? A resounding YES! Do we need to evaluate whether existing regulations truly meet the needs of the American people? Constantly. Do we need to quit adding regulations on top of regulations on top of regulations? Absolutely.

    Does Congress need to quit writing 2,400 page bills (don’t confuse the legislation with the regulations that are promulgated under the legislation) that are so complex the regulators in the executive branch really have a dickens of a time figuring out where to even start.

    I could write for hours on why I believe that our government acts the way it does. I mentioned my time in the government (under Bush “gubmint”). Much of that time I worked at the Washington office level and, yes, I really did write, review, and edit regulations. I strove to make them clear, succinct, and usable providing guidance and standards without tying peoples hands. I worked with too many people, though, who wanted everyone to act like they themselves would act and wrote regulations so specific that they had little or no room for those affected to effectively perform their functions based on local needs. This drove me nuts.

    I haven’t even talked about the systems failures we’ve created by compiling millions of lines of regulations without an appropriate regulatory body to properly enforce them. I’ll save that for another time.

    One brief comment to PatriotSgt – Government is large because it keeps responding to the growth in complexity of our society. Think of all the things that do require some level of regulation that 30 years ago didn’t exist. Take the communications spectrum we now utilize and all the various impacts its use has on our country. All the regulations related to cell phones, wireless, broadband, etc., are necessary or we would have one giant mess on our hands – one, that if left to industry, would be resolved by the giant corporations of the world to their advantage. Of course, this then raised the question of how embedded these companies currently are in our legislative and regulatory bodies and we’re already sort of there anyway, aren’t we.

    Actually, I lost my original direction. What I wanted to say was that the component of the federal government that is directly tied up in regulatory most actions in the US is a small piece of the federal budget – the discretionary portion of the budget. Pretty small potatoes when one looks at the entitlement programs and, for me at least, I’d pull DoD out of the discretionary budget until we really get a handle of military spending.

    Whoa, enough.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  9. starluna wrote:

    Sammy – I guess that is what I find baffling. Do you really think that you can come up with a health care reform law (just as an example) that is simple? Especially, given that our political and governance structure is a dual federal republic. And that there are as many values related to health care as there are residents in the population. And that our conception of health care delivery is that it primarily belongs in the private market? And given that it has to include legal protections for vulnerable groups? And ensure that it would apply equitably to all aspects of the system, including community hospitals, research hospitals, teaching hospitals, community health care centers, other federally qualified health centers, religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics, other institutions of health care delivery, private practice, Medicaid and Medicare payees, physicians, mid-level practitioners (NPs and PAs), nurses, nurses aides, prescription and non prescription pharmaceuticals (drugs, biologics, and vaccines), medical laboratories, medical education, nursing education, paraprofessional education, medical record keeping, medical devices, medical waste management, and, of course, the single medical procedure that ever gets regulated, abortion?

    Even the draft outlines of the single payer proposals that some of my former colleagues still cling to were hundreds of pages long. That was without definitions, clear delineation of lines of regulatory authority, and outlines payment structures. Structurally, a single payer system is the simplest and most economically efficient medical care delivery system. But it would require many times the number of pages of the current health care reform law to achieve.

    I understand the desire to pursue simplicity. And there are times when the simpler solution is the better one. But the fact is we are a 230+ year old, physically large and complex society. There is nothing simple in creating policy that affects entire sectors of the economy and the entire population, even when you are perfectly content to disrupt the whole system.

    Keep in mind that the original Constitution was just over 4500 words. It has had to be amended 25 times (27 if you count prohibition and then its repeal). And there are thousands of cases submitted to the Supreme Court every year demanding clarification of the Constitutionality of some law, regulation, or policy.

    And besides, the length of the pages of a law is not an adequate measure of who is benefiting or burdened from a law. In at least one instance that I know of, the TVA was given the legal authority to build a dam that destroyed hundreds of acres of farms and dozens of farmer’s livelihoods by a single act of Congress encompassing about 2 pages of text.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  10. patriotsgt wrote:

    If I could express myself half as well as many of the participants on this site, maybe someone would understand me, since I can’t Don has stepped up for me, and Starluna has added many valuable and good points.
    Agreed, a society as complex and multi faceted as ours needs regulation, frameworks and legal guidance. (Do we ever)But I 100% agree that we need to assess and analyze before jumping on the “lets make a new regulation” bandwagon. Basic problem solving; identify the problem, analyze, come up with solutions, test those solutions(to see if they actually solve the problem), then implement.
    Our congress, in my opinion, seem to place less emphasis on steps 3+4 before rushing to get a product to the camara.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
  11. Sammy wrote:

    I do see your point, Starluna. But I do also see some ridiculous “regulations” in the industry in which I work. To wit, in the state of Washington if you operate a straight truck (i.e., not tractor-trailer) and are caught twice being over the truck’s registered weight limit, instead of administering escalating fines to discourage the behavior, you are required to re-register the vehicle at a higher weight limit and pay a higher registration fee. EVEN IF THAT WEIGHT IS ABOVE THE VEHICLE’S STATED MANUFACTURER’S LIMIT!! In other words, if you desire to put 40,000 of weight onto a truck designed for 26,000 gross, just break the law twice and you’ll be mandated to do so. I asked our state’s head of the dept. that administers this law, and he conceded this is indeed the law. And he conceded it’s a law that encourages unsafe behavior that puts all drivers at risk.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  12. starluna wrote:

    Sammy – it is true that there are some stupid regulations out there. My most recent favorite has to do with a particular type of German traveling van that are defined as some type of truck which makes them impossible to import (I think I read about it here).

    But the stupidity of a law or regulation, or the stupidity in its enforcement, or even its necessity, is a wholly separate issue from the length of pages it took to make the regulation to begin with. It is also important to distinguish between state regs and federal regs. State statutes and regulations are a completely different beast than federal statutes and regs.

    Don – I totally feel you. I find a lot of my current work in the state environmental arena now (primarily in the public review and pollution permitting side of things) and the regs are variously, and inexplicably, too flexible or too inflexible. After over a dozen years of conservative governors, we are mostly suffering from over-reliance on “voluntary compliance” and lack of resources for proper enforcement when companies choose to not volunteer.

    I think the example of egg recall is great example of the unnecessary complexity that was built into the food safety system. I would differ on one point however: given that Congress gave the FDA the responsibility over the safety of shelled eggs, they were not given the authority to order recalls until after this outbreak had started. I’ve worked with the FDA on pharmaceutical and medical device recalls and I’m sure they would have acted quickly if they had the authority to do so.

    Have you read Marion Nestle? She’s written alot about food politics. I’m not too keen on her books about what is the “right way to eat.” But I did enjoy the few chapters of two food politics books. I’ve been meaning to look at here “Taking Sides” book to see if it is worth integrating into my law and public health courses.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    It sounds like we are moving toward a consensus that we need some kind of feedback mechanism that encourages regulations that actually work, and discourages regulations that don’t.

    Starluna, yes, you read about the “Chicken Tax” and the VW microbus right here. That was my own research, when I started trying to buy a camper, and wondered why VW wasn’t importing camper vans into the US anymore. Now *that* is a stupid regulation!

    Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink
  14. ZJD wrote:

    It is truly refreshing to observe this level of discourse on the Internet. Imagine! A discussion about government regulation in which people with actual government regulatory experience participate! I applaud all those who contributed, and I hope you continue to spread your knowledge and ideas.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    And why can’t we have discussions like this on the mainstream media?

    Friday, August 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  16. patriotsgt wrote:

    Because we’re a non-profit and they are trying to make money.

    What would their ratings look like if the 2 sides agreed that they had valid points and need to work together?
    They’d get boo’d off camara and then fired. Dirty laundry sells comercial time, good news gets a 3am time slot.

    Same with politicians, if repubs and dems work together then who do you vote for dems or repubs? It would force people to actually look at the candidates and not just vote for the party nominee.

    Friday, August 27, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  17. Semalu wrote:

    Most entertaining all. So refreshing to see comments like these. Am I right in concluding one aspect of this conversation where we are faced with an over abundance of dysfunctional regulations because we have a government that responds to the demands and changing needs of its people. Whoa… what a concept…. how delightful ….and how ironic no?

    Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  18. Iron Knee wrote:

    PatriotSgt, I lived in New Zealand for a while, and the media and politicians were pretty much as you describe. They would acknowledge the valid points of the other side and work to find a solution. Wasn’t perfect, but a hell sight better than what I see here. And they actually solved problems. In addition, they had a parliamentary system with multiple parties, rather than our “winner take all” two-party system.

    Some of that may be the personality of the Kiwis, since I’ve also lived in England during the Thatcher era, and their political parties (at least at that time) were even worse than what you see here.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  19. patriotsgt wrote:

    Semalu – thats pretty much it in a nutshell. Irony at its best.
    IK – I really believe that if we had a valid 3rd party that was capable of holding 1/4 to 1/3 of the seats, our political environment would be completely different. They’d be forced to work together or form coalitions to get legislation through.
    Is NZ really as beautiful as the sets for LOR showed? If so I’d love to visit there.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink