An Empty Promise
Jan 22, 2011
A couple of New York Times writers at (follow this link to read) put their finger on the problem with President Obama’s substance-free promise to eliminate dumb federal regulations.
If you buy that, I’ve got a check here from Eastern Livestock I’d like you to cash for me.
Had the man promised to do cost-benefit analysis of all regulations, you might have something. But there’s no way he’s going to do that. Too many of those federal rules have too much support from this or that constituency and dozens of the most politically expedient would never pass muster. They’re based more on whose principles hold sway than what makes sense. That’s why we’ve got—with the president promising less needless regulation—a USDA pushing this very needless bunch of new restrictions on the cattle industry’s internal deal-making.
The Times’ example of the back-up camera is a fine case in point. But let’s think of others you and I agree are dumb. How about the regulation forbidding slaughter of wild horses? What’s the cost-benefit of that? Or the EPA’s dust regulations, at a time when aggregate dust loads are being annually reduced by better farming practices and paving the best farmland in the country for parking lots at Wal-Marts and government offices?
Or, how about the EPA declaring CO2 a pollutant? Where’s the cost-benefit analysis of that, Mr. President?
To their credit, and thanks to a lot of political pressure, USDA has agreed to do a cost-benefit on its proposed new livestock marketing regulations. But how do you do that fairly? Who referees and decides the cost/benefit of requiring packers to offer me the same deal they offer Paul Engler? How do you value using federal regulations to force packers and chicken processors and consumers to pay more than they economically need to in the name of “fairness.” You figure, what? An inefficient producer staying in business is worth X while a less efficient producer not being rewarded with more business is worth Y?
It’s like trying to figure the cost of that spotted owl silliness. Maybe you can estimate how much it costs to put loggers on welfare and import more timber, but that’s just X. The Y is the value of a useless spotted owl. To me, that would be how many mice he removes from the environment. But I don’t suppose the folks at the Sierra Club would agree.
All the power in this sort of math goes to the guys picking the guys who set the values of X and Y.
And that probably won’t be you and me.