Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Civics Lesson

The United States Constitution establishes 3 "separate and co-equal" branches of government. In a pistachio shell, congress generates legislation which becomes law if the president signs it or 2/3 majorities of both houses override a veto. The executive is charged with executing the laws. The judiciary, among other responsibilities, resolves disputes if parties with standing believe that the executive is executing the law improperly.

Congress lacks the time, resources and technical capacity to produce detailed regulations. Therefore over the centuries congress has established various executive agencies to which it has delegated regulatory authority. Regulations must accord with the broad guidelines and criteria in the relevant legislation, and there are detailed procedures for producing them including substantial opportunity for public input. If congress doesn't like a particular regulation, they can overrule it. If a party with standing believes that a regulation does not accord with legislative authority, it can sue. Actually this happens all the time. Then the courts decide who is right.

Obviously there will always be some people who don't like regulations. If nobody was engaged in a harmful activity, then there would be no need for a corresponding regulation in the first place. Whatever the number of regulations happens to be is of no evaluative relevance. Nobody can say what is the "right" number. Since regulations cover a vast range of activities and entities, there probably ought to be a lot of them. No one of us has to comply with more than a tiny fraction of all that exist.

The only intellectually defensible approach to regulation is to look at each regulatory action on its own merits. When scientists with the appropriate expertise determine that allowing more ultrafine particle and oxides of nitrogen emissions from motor vehicle tailpipes will result in death and disease, and produce numerical estimates with credible confidence intervals, they have proffered an objective fact. Saying "But there are too many regulations" is not an intelligent response to that fact, it is actually proof that the utterer is an idiot.

Now, it so happens that part of the rulemaking process is a cost-benefit analysis. Regulations presumably makes cars and trucks a bit more expensive to build and maintain, so those costs must be considered. That requires, a fortiori, that we put a dollar value on human life, which oddly enough seems to be something that conservatives commonly claim we cannot or should not do. Well, you can't have it both ways. Either you think that human lives are worth less than the Obama EPA concluded, or you think that the cost imposed by lifesaving regulations is of no consequence and therefore regulations can never go too far.

Say what you really think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why not leave it to law enforcement to make up their own criminal laws they will enforce as well? After all, they're the professionals and they know more about crime than we do.

Next, the military could decide when and where we go to war. After all, they know things you couldn't possibly know. They're the experts.

Who needs congress, anyway?

To believe that and that the EPA and DOE doesn't need real oversight when promulgating the fire-hose of annual federal regulations (laws) coming out of Washington, you have to have a lot of faith in the nature of man.