mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Bureaucracy Blues
Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Blackbeard

    But the Greens hate infrastructure and the Greens are a core Democratic Party interest group. I am a civil engineer and it’s my job to get all those tedious permits, environmental approvals, etc., and a very nice living it it indeed. But the ability to slow everything down to a crawl, and make everything cost double what is should, is just the way the Greens want it.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      California’s high-speed rail may be as stupid as it sounds but it looks like we shall never find out. That’s….. something. Forward.

  • Greg Olsen

    The function of regulation is to correct for negative externalities. A negative externality is a market failure where the parties to a transaction do not bear the cost of the transaction. An example is atmospheric pollution. Let’s say you have a coal fired power plant. In the absence of regulation, neither the producer nor the consumer bear the cost of the pollution from the plant but those downwind from the plant. Regulation enters to require changes in fuel for the plant and scrubbing technologies to prevent the acid rain caused by the power plant. The producer has a compliance cost that is then passed on to the consumer. The problem is that regulation accumulates over time to correct for more and more identified negative externalities.

    Regulation of public goods, which the WSJ article highlighted, is a difficult problem. The political process identifies the need for a public good and funds it, but the losers in a the political process have a goal line defense. The regulatory machinery gets deployed after public comment fails. Our government runs on a deliberative (mostly) transparent process. Regulators and courts are used to override decisions arrived at by deliberation. Limiting the currently nearly limitless opportunities to override the decision would greatly speed the delivery of public goods.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Why does your last sentence sound like “limiting” the economic rights of producers, or consumers, or “those downwind”? Don’t any or all of those have legitimate reasons to try to override some decisions?

      • CapitalHawk

        Of course they do. But the issue is how long they should be given to exercise their rights. If you are injured in a car accident, you must bring your suit within a specific number of years or forever lose your right to be compensated for any injuries you suffered in the accident. There’s nothing wrong with imposing similar limits on the right to sue/file objections to plants/roads/factories/farms/buildings, is there?

        • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

          Unlike a car wreck, the harms of pollution occur continuously. If they occur at all, that is. We now have an EPA that defines CO2, the second most vital gas for life in the atmosphere, as a pollutant. The proof for actual harm is nebulous at best and acid rain is nearly as dubious as ‘global warming’, so not a great example.

        • FriendlyGoat

          A car wreck is a specific incident with a date, right?

          • CapitalHawk

            Yes, and so is the building or expansion of infrastructure. It has a start and end date of construction. Its effects are usually known in advance and can be taken into account in determining to permit it or not and if permitted, what restrictions are imposed. Anyway, let’s not pretend that once built a part of our infrastructure is thereafter immune from regulatory action.

      • Greg Olsen

        There needs to be limits, mainly time and venue, for hearing disputes and the tools that can be used. Public goods should be treated differently in the regulatory process from private goods, because there has been a deliberative process already followed in the decision making.

        At the same time, public comment periods need to not just be formalities, and need to require legitimate responses from the government. Too many times the public is steamrolled by a political process captured by special interests, mainly at the local level.

        • FriendlyGoat

          One would hope that “public comments” actually affect decisions, but we have no assurance of that outcome usually.

  • Anthony

    Unpacked in WRM’s post is question: “how does U.S. democratic electorate grant its government an appropriate degree of discretion and yet remain in firm control of the policies and goals its bureaucracies are meant to serve?” Too many strict rules oftentimes impede good decision making.

    “There is an intangible factor that needs to be present to make the political system work, which is trust. Citizens must trust the government to make good decisions reflecting their interests most of the time, while governments for their part must earn that trust by being responsive and delivering on their promises. A properly autonomous bureaucracy is not one that is walled off from citizens, but rather one that is embedded in society and responsive to its demands….”

    The aforementioned, of course, must in line with WRM’s general thrust (technology and America’s need) acknowledge U.S. tradition of Courts and Parties” – framed by adversarial legalism.

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Trust the mouth that bites you? Bad idea. Forward.

      • Anthony

        ????

  • Fat_Man

    We will not have prosperity until the last lawyer is strangled with the entrails of the last “environmentalist”.

    • CapitalHawk

      Please. Lawyers and activist environmentalists represent their constituencies and do nothing more than push to enforce rules and regulations put in place by the people elected by Americans (or put in place by those elected officials). Point the finger at the principals, not the agents.

      • Fat_Man

        I am doubling down on this one. Remember that lawyers and environmentalists are the judges and bureaucrats that are terrorizing us. Congress passes laws like the endangered species act to protect the Bald Eagle and the Grizzly Bear, and lawyers and environmentalists turn that into the Delta Smelt an utterly worthless bait fish and the reason to dump fresh water, that California needs to fight a four year long drought, into the sea.

        • CapitalHawk

          Congress delegates tremendous authority to those bureaucrats you hate so much. Your issue is with Congress (and by extension, your fellow citizens), not the bureaucrats. Every single issue that you have with the judges and bureaucrats could be addressed by Congressional action (outside of constitutional issues, which despite the press they garner, are rare). That they are not addressed by Congressional action means that there is insufficient public will to change the rule you would like changed. So, rather than engaging in hyperbole and accusing some of your fellow Americans of “terrorizing” you, perhaps you should try convincing us that Delta Smelt should not be on the endangered species list or that the endangered species act should be amended.

          • Fat_Man

            I hate Congress too. And I am learning to hate you as well.

          • CapitalHawk

            Haters gonna hate.

          • Fat_Man

            And trolls gonna troll.

          • CapitalHawk

            Disagreement does not make a person a troll.

          • Fat_Man

            No trolling does.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Reforming the Government Monopoly isn’t the answer, it has been tried repeatedly for as long as mankind has had Government Monopolies. The self interest of people inside the Government Monopoly isn’t to take care of the needs of the citizens, but rather to avoid taking responsibility for anything, and spreading the blame as far and wide as possible, that’s how bureaucrats get ahead and promoted.

    Only the free market, which has the “Feedback of Competition”, can ever be the efficient organ that Leftists and other Big Government supporters want Big Government to be. This is because it is the “Feedback of Competition” that provides both the information and motivation which forces continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price in free markets.

    By making businesses, their employees, and owners legally responsible for the infrastructure they contract to build, Government can be removed from the approval process. Failure to perform will then become a legal, criminal, and financial disaster for the contractor. And you will never see cost overruns, late finishing, or substandard materials. What you will see instead are businesses taking pride in their work, adding beauty and style to ordinary infrastructures so that they can slap their Brand Name on it and use it as advertising. Roads, Bridges, even electrical substations and infrastructure will become colorful and unique examples of the contractor’s art. That’s a world I would like to live in, not this Big Government Monopoly utilitarian, ugly, and decaying world.

  • Episteme

    “What we call the ‘rule of law’ is the rigorous application of legal and regulatory norms to particular cases: much (though never all) of this can be done in the 21st century more effectively (faster, cheaper, fairer) by processes that take advantage of the enormous ability of information technology to accelerate the processes of analysis that bureaucracies grind through so slowly and painfully—and with so many places where bribes and political cronyism can be brought to bear.”

    You’re describing a next-generation version of regulatory technocracy that is quite the opposite of any definition of Rule of Law. The separation of jurisdiction over legal norms from common law into regulatory ‘courts’ in the name of ‘operating more effectively’ is precisely what has caused these problems, because there’s a lack of actual response; instead there’s only ‘analysis.’ The Rule of Law is not about being Fair, its about being Just – those sound like synonyms but they aren’t – and the technocratic systems that you describe, which have dominated the discourse of the past 150 years of government since the Second Industrial Revolution (and have only accelerated since the Progressive Era and the Cold War) don’t work in the disruptive era of the Information Age. There’s a very good reason why we see a return to Enlightenment language over the past decade; many assume merely political reasons. Rather, the disruption in centralized fiscal economy should match a disruption in centralized political economy – we saw that succeed after the 1688-1694 revolution in England (and revolted when a post-Seven Years War parliament wanted to except us from those financial and libertarian benefits) and in other cases across the globe and history (as well as failures when governments took the wrong response). The callbacks to the wonders of regulation prior to the Internet (consider the fans of ‘fair’ Net Neutrality) are sounding more and more like Jacobites with “land” made up on regulatory code and rent-seeking that a new economy would bypass…

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service