The dead weight loss of stupid regulation and poor state activity is the elephant in the room regarding the current recession. Megan McArdle's recently blogged car tribulations where she finally managed to register her car bought August 3, 2008 on January 10, 2009. The delay is due, in large part, to PA state bureaucrats misapplying state law and putting a national hold on McArdle's ability to get a drivers license. There is no left wing or right wing justification for this. Nobody particularly supports the practice of the government making regulations up as they go along and then quickly retracting their claims when somebody calls them on it.
So why does this sort of thing persist? Two reasons spring to mind. Once you've caught them, correcting the problem for everybody looks so daunting and fixing it for yourself looks so cheap that the vast majority of people just fix their own paperwork and get on with their lives. The second is that there seems to be no political advantage to undergo a crusade to fix this sort of stuff.
But sometimes the waste is just sitting right in front of you and nobody even notices. Sean O'Neill wanted to see his travel dossier so he did a FOI request. The response was mailed, twenty pages. Sending paper is more expensive than sending bits. It's slower, too.
An agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection can generate a travel history for any traveler with a few keystrokes on a computer.
And that's the problem of dead weight loss in a nutshell, government that is slow and expensive even when it isn't being capricious and not following the law. We can do better.Posted by TMLutas at January 12, 2009 07:19 AM