Worrying about regulations
Michael Mandel is waging a one-man war against the government's tendency to pile on regulations during economic downturns. I worry his approach is a little indiscriminate: Genetically modified crops can still contaminate non-genetically-modified crops even if the economy is weak. So there either need to be standards for how to handle that problem or GMO producers will be laden with legal threats and uncertainty over regulations they they know will come eventually, but whose content they can't yet predict. That's a much worse position for a young industry.
But there's definitely something to Mandel's argument that most regulations exert some economic drag (though they also often have other benefits), and recessions might change the cost-benefit analysis for both old and new regulations. And I agree with Sen. Mark Warner's argument that old regulations rarely get reviewed, and that implies there are a lot of rules out there that long ago should've been lifted. I don't know whether tying regulations to the business cycle or instituting a one-in-one-out policy is really the right way to address the problems, but I'm increasingly convinced that the rigidity and insulation of the regulatory state is a problem worth worrying about.
| January 13, 2011; 9:53 AM ET
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