31 Jan 2009

A Disagreement on the Efficacy of Government Regulation

All Posts No Comments

Over at Env-Econ, some of the commenters were taking pot shots at the free market in the wake of the salmonella outbreak from the Georgia peanut butter plant. (Incidentally that is a factory I’m talking about, not a photosynthetic organism that secretes peanut butter.) I said:

Ah yes, I think we had this same argument with the tomatoes.

I oppose government regulations because (a) they waste taxpayer money and (b) don’t keep us safe. In fact they give a false sense of security and crowd out private certification mechanisms because people assume “the government is taking care of this.”

How can we distinguish my theory from your guys’? What happened here perfectly fits my worldview.

In contrast, your worldview would be better supported if we had no government regulation of food safety and then somebody got sick from tainted food.

I’ll try it a different way: Suppose for the sake of argument that I’m right. What better evidence could I find, to document I’m right, than to show that businesses (or Bernie Madoff) get away with ridiculous things even amidst the allegedly vital government regulation?

My favorite response:


Have you ever thought to back test your theory by looking back on history before we had all this pesky regulation? Did you know there was a time when it didn’t exist? Are you aware that virtually all of it was AS A RESULT of far worse abuses of the public trust than this peanut fiasco? Your absurd assertion that regulation does not protect us can only be supported by willful ignorance of history. It is factually untrue and that’s not a matter of opinion. Homework assignment #1 read Updike’s “The Jungle”.

If I felt like it I could list literally hundreds of cases of regulation dramatically reducing public harm and with a little more work I could support ever assertion with statistics to prove it. Consider just the example of Airline safety. Look at the deaths per passenger mile flown, and try to explain that dramatic fall with anything other than FAA regulation and enforcement.

Comments are closed.