Monday, March 19, 2007

Defending the Indefensible (Bushies and Regulation Edition)

by Tom Bozzo

Shorter Robert Hahn and Robert Litan (directors of the American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution Joint Center for Regulatory Studies):
Having political officers sign off on regulations will help ensure that career civil servants' vision is down the right tunnel.

Ken (*) offers a couple choice quotes:
“Of course, the particular person the president appoints could skew the process away or towards the balancing of costs and benefits, but we think the president should have that choice.”
“While it is an open question as to whether the president has the legal authority to make this change, we think that he does; if the president does not, then Congress should give [i.e., cede] this general authority to the president directly.”
Fact is, the executive branch's ability to interpret statutes in drafting regulations already gives it considerable power. Meanwhile, Hahn and Litan don't actually show that the legislative process isn't biased towards excessive weighting of costs of narrow interests that can afford to lobby against diffuse societal benefits. And they trot out a "regulations may cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year" line without proper comparison to our low-fourteen-figure GDP. (**)

Additionally: While Hahn and Litan are free to make normative statements regarding how regulation should be carried out, it should not be forgotten that the legislative power is not constrained by cost-benefit considerations. I hope turn to some of the good reasons for that (at least by AEI-grade cost-benefit calculus) the next time a blogging window opens.

(*) Who has teh ability to see posts-in-the-making.

(**) Which puts me in mind of this fabulous post from Brad Altrocket. The key pull quote (ah, if only I could write such things):

Put it like this: let’s say I pay a chimpanzee two cents every day to come over to my house, pull down my pants, light a match and singe one of my pubic hairs. “Ouch!” you say. “Bradrocket, that seems like an awfully silly thing to do!” “Nonsense!” I say in between howls of burnt-pubis agony. “I’m only paying this chimp two cents a day to do this!!... YOU CAN’T EVEN GET MIGRANT LABOR THAT CHEAP!!!! IT’S A DAMN BARGAIN!!!!”

And that... is basically what the Iraq war is like, but much, much worse. Please keep that in mind the next time you write an article about the war being a “bargain.”

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