How Regulations Work: Ready, Fire, Aim!

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The federal government tends to follow a bass-ackward approach to regulating business activity.

First, it decides what it wants. Then it writes a regulation. Then it does an analysis to justify the regulation.

In other words, a procedure of “ready, fire, then aim.”

This disoriented approach helped to bring about many of the more than 165,000 pages of federal regulations, close to 20,000 added in the past few years, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

In its attempt to assume the job of “protecting the safety and health of consumers and workers, the federal government places an enormous load on business and industry as well as, often, average Americans,” a report from the Mercatus Center said.

Psychology, economics, and organized science, however, suggest that too many regulations—particularly highly detailed regulations—may make society less, rather than more, safe. In the Center’s study, “Regulatory Overload: A Behavioral Analysis of Regulatory Compliance,” psychologists and economists examined behavioral effects of regulatory overload on business. They discovered that too many and too detailed regulations can reduce compliance, discourage innovation, and fuel uncertainty, “ultimately making Americans less safe.”

A recent example: Automakers were required by the administration to double current fuel economy by 2025. Of course, the specific standard was picked without rationale—after first publicly floating other standards. Cost of compliance will be $8.5 billion a year.

It also will costs “untold numbers of jobs and–most inexcusable—the loss of lives.” Regulations in recent years forced car makers to downsize vehicles to meet standards that increased traffic fatalities by the thousands, according to the EPA’s own Inspector General’s Report.

An Environmental Protection Agency regulation to try to keep soot from power plants from drifting across state lines was suspended by a federal court Jan. 1, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The court ruling “recognizes the irreparable harm that would have resulted from the short time line for compliance” said CEO David Campbell of Luminant, a Texas power company.

The EPA rule was stayed for the time being. But the court’s stay of the regulation for soot that may waft across a state line disheartened EPA bureaucrats, who couldn’t enforce their regulation immediately. The rule would affect about 1,000 power plants in more than two dozen states. It would have required them to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide by 73 percent—not 72 percent or 74 percent—and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent—not 53 or 55 percent from 2005 levels by 2014. One might well ask who chose and why did they choose such specific figures that could be changed by so many factors during the EPA’s timeline. Ready, fire, aim.

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  • bill jones

    Gridlock in our Government is a good thing. It slows them down from screwing up
    so many things at the same time. We are reminded of Marcus Connelly's spiritual play, "Green Pastures" where God laments to the Angel Gabriel, "Every time Ah passes a miracle, Ah has to pass fo' or five mo' to ketch up wid it," adding,
    "Even bein' God ain't no bed of roses."

  • PhillipGaley

    Both sense of power and eternal security, act as intoxicating corruptions upon the human mind—most becoming of a disease. Is it over 1/2 of our pop. now live on government checks? If you're a young person, haven't had much parenting, basically without inspiration, maybe join an ever larger number who are trying to crowd on to the governmental merry-go-round, . . . at least you'll have some money coming in, . . . spend your life, waiting for retirement, . . . plus, along the way, two people don't have to work together as a financial unit in marriage because, each has their own check—what could be finer?

    The kind of administrative evil which is described in this article, was a prime reason as to why the middle class of ancient Rome were optimistic concerning the coming of the Vandals—and which, in the nature of things, should say something to us about why the USA is headed straight toward a Sino-Soviet invasion—we need it. But, not to worry too much over any un-recoupable loss, in his vision, George Washington foresaw the survival of the republic; so, . . . of course, a lotta people might die, . . . but, . . .

  • truckwork

    Again a study to prove what so many conservatives already have been saying for years.

  • pagegl

    Obama is on the stump pushing for more regulation, saying the evil Republicans are anti-middle class for trying to reduce government regualtion. The Republicans really need to quit being patsies for that kind of crap. The left is slowly winning the war of words and Republicans are letting them get away with it.

  • hajid

    Wonder if Barney's business and his affiliates are all exempted from the Dodd-Frank act?

    Seems like administration and all the regulatory minded officials think they are smarter and better than all the hard working citizens. Instead of stating 'power plant must produce exhaust that will not have ill effect to people in the neighborhood', it says 'you need to install a 100 million equipment to remove such and such, and the exhaust must not cross the state line, no matterh what the wind direction is'. Instead of saying 'manufacturer must keep their employee's safety as priority to reduce work related injury', it says 'factories must put an XX brand of anti-slip mat within one inch on both sides of a conveyer to reduce fall'.

    Maybe the industries who're currently under such regulation can 'ready', 'aim' and 'fire' them?

  • mrbean

    The advocates of the mixed economy are wrong on all counts: capitalism and free markets are neither economically nor morally faulty. Economically, laissez-faire capitalism enables the flourishing of productivity and material success; morally, it protects the inalienable rights to freedom and property that make the pursuit of happiness possible. Americans vigorously defend freedoms such as speech, religion, marriage, and association. Yet by endorsing the mixed economy, they abandon the principle of freedom when it comes to economics—even though freedom is both moral and practical. There is no justification for tainting capitalism with government coercion of any kind, for any alleged economic or social gain. Instead, it is time for a truly free market, not only to recover from current economic troubles, but to reach heights of prosperity not yet seen. the mixed economy require the use of government power in the way that Washington feared: not simply as an instrument of protection, but as an instrument of coercion.

    • Jim_C

      You couldn't be more wrong. History shows again and again how nature points out the follies of men–no, no, I mean, it shows us that financial markets require regulation because of the, well, the follies of men. The groupthink that produces bubbles. The greed. Yes I know this is "heresy" to conservatives, but we humans sometimes need protection from our nature, and also protection from institutions that know no moral obligation but the profit motive.

      The fact that many Wall Street execs were privately BEGGING the White House for more regulation is quite telling. One mustn't publicly speak against free market orthodoxy and risk being seen as speaking against the robust flourishing of our economic titans.

  • bill jones

    Mr. Bean,
    Beautifully stated.

  • LindaRivera

    Most people are unaware of government raids made on small-medium sized farms. Raw, organic dairy farms have had their healthy dairy products seized and thrown out. At least one farmer has been taken away in handcuffs! Many people in a desperate struggle to regain their health (or not lose their health) know how IMPORTANT raw, organic dairy is in the battle for health.

    American businesses and American jobs must be PROTECTED! The WAR against small-medium sized businesses must stop!

    The new Animal Identification rule will act like a tax on every livestock animal that crosses state lines – something that happens THOUSANDS of times a day in the United States! This is incredibly hard on small-medium sized farms WHO CANNOT AFFORD THIS!

    Family farmers and ranchers cannot afford additional paperwork and unnecessary expenses to please the industrial agribusiness lobby. We must stand up for our rights and the rights of farms! Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is standing up for family farms and backyard livestock growers!

    This is their internet address:


  • LindaRivera

    WAR is being waged on American BUSINESSES and American JOBS!
    Americans must not be denied the human right to jobs and businesses!

    Is Fed Raid on Gibson Guitar​ Company Enforcing Policy . . . or a Push to Target ‘Made in the USA’?
    September 07, 2011

    They are among the most sought-after musical instruments in the world.
    Gibson is also a company that is proud to put the “Made in the USA” label on its instruments. While the company has lower-end lines that are made overseas, every guitar that bears the “Gibson” label is made in the U.S. by American workers.

    Related Stories
    Attacking U.S. Companies Is No Way to Create Jobs

    Gibson: Feds Want Guitar Woodwork Done by Foreign Labor

    Related Video

    Gibson Guitar CEO: Don’t Know Why We Were Targeted

    On August 24, armed agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Homeland Security raided the corporate headquarters and two factories of the Gibson Guitar company. The agencies took away 24 pallets of Indian rosewood and ebony, as well as a number of guitars and computer files.

    “I think they’re taking the position that we should be shifting these jobs overseas,” says Bruce Mitchell, the chief legal counsel for Gibson.

    Stop the WAR on American jobs!

  • LindaRivera

    An inferior health care plan that no one wants and CANNOT afford to pay. The threat to jail and/or fine those who don't purchase the government enforced plan.

    Massive spending as if there is no tomorrow. Fighting wars we have no money for. Massive borrowing.

    The Massive giving away of Billions of dollars every year to other countries, including the oil-wealthy Middle East, Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Palestinian Authority organization who fill their war chests, build mansions and laugh all the way to the bank with FREE infidel money. Whilst in America, homeless shelters are filled to capacity; tent cities have sprung up all over the U.S. filled with desperate, jobless, homeless, neglected Americans.

    Massive debt. The massive printing of paper money out of thin air to DELIBERATELY create out-of-control inflation. There is no question that the total DESTRUCTION of America's economy is planned. The results will be horrifying. In the once wealthy and great nation of America, millions of Americans will become destitute, hungry and homeless with no money or resources to help them.

  • LindaRivera

    Organic, non-GMO avocado, fruit and nut trees and berries must be planted in all of our nation’s cities’ and towns’ parks to help the many millions of Americans who will soon be in a desperate struggle to survive because of the frightening, highly destructive economic policies of our government.

    Watch it. And weep for our great nation and people:

    FALL Of The Republic – The Presidency Of Barack H Obama – The Full Movie HQ

  • Eric G

    I only hope this girl's entrepreneurial spirit — to start a business, stimulate the economy, and eventually create jobs — is not crushed forever.