January 16, 2004

Wanted: A Department of Anarchy V

Samizdata notes an interesting conversation about excessive law. It seems that more and more people are realizing that the rule of law is being eroded by codes too complex for anybody to actually follow. This makes lawbreakers of us all and thus the government becomes immune to citizen pressure as any critic can be brought before a judge and legitimately convicted for violating some rule, regulation, or law, a chilling effect, indeed.

The solution seems evident. Regulatory burden needs to be measured and red lines need to be established. When they are exceeded, regulation in an area needs to be stopped, and the regulation writers need to be turned into regulation pruners until costs come down sufficiently.

Congress could pass legislation requiring the executive to measure the burden and empower the regulated to challenge any funny numbers put out by the executive. They could require regulations to be ranked, along with individual compliance costs. Are the compliance costs too high by 10%? Strike off the least important 10% (by cost) of regulations until new compliance improvements enable the regulations to be enabled once again.

The point is not to leave us in dangerous situations without guidance, it is to regain a sense of proportion, to reconnect costs with benefits, and to make the regulatory process a little bit more connected with reality. It would also have the effect of putting up a barrier against the bureaucratic games that departments play during budget crises. Immediately, the most important, the most publicly noticeable functions are shut down because it maximizes the public pressure to increase expenditures. With a ranking system of what is most important to least important, bureaucrats can be forced to shut the least important things down first.

Posted by TMLutas at January 16, 2004 02:04 PM