Tag Archives: regulations

Regulatory Transparency Is Decidedly Lacking

Regular readers know that the federal government issues about 3,700 new regulations in an average year. But how many of those rules actually receive proper review, with cost and benefit estimates? Wayne Crews and I did some digging on that front, and the answer is not pretty: the Office of Management and Budget reviewed a grand total of 47 regulations last year, or a little more than 1 percent of the total. In today’s Washington Times, we lay out the problem and propose some solutions:

The OMB should ensure any new proposal creates more value than it destroys. One reason agencies regulate so recklessly is that they know few people are paying attention. Expanding Executive Order 12866 to include independent agencies would allow the agency to review more rules, though it would still fall well short of transparency. The Code of Federal Regulations contains more than 1 million regulations, with thousands more being added every year, according to George Mason University’s RegData project.

If only Washington paid as much attention to regulations as we’re learning it pays to our private phone calls and emails.

Read the whole thing here.


Regulation of the Day 179: Giving Food to Homeless People

Last Wednesday, three people were arrested in Orlando for giving food to homeless people in a local park. They violated city regulations that require “groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.” The rules apply to events that give food to over 25 people; the arrestees fed about 40 people.

Their charitable work could cost them each a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. All three are affiliated with a group call Food Not Bombs that regularly gives meals to homeless people. The Wednesday event that led to the arrests was a deliberate resistance to the ordinance. Hopefully they will succeed in overturning it; the last thing government should do when people try to help each other is get in the way.

Regulation of the Day 168: When Chickens Mate

In Hopewell Township, New Jersey, chickens are only allowed to mate on 10 pre-selected days per year. And that isn’t the only law that poultry must follow. They must be disease-free in order to mate. There are to be no more than 6 hens per half-acre lot. And roosters must keep their crowing in check – violating Hopewell’s strict crowing regulations means a two-year banishment from the property they disturbed.

The Environmental-Industrial Complex

Sometimes the green part of green regulations isn’t the environment. It’s money.

Economics says that people act according to their incentives. Public choice theorists say that politicians and regulators also act according to their incentives — just like the rest of us. Those incentives include maximizing agency budgets and winning elections.

This short video from Reason.tv shows public choice theory in action:

Political Pessimism, Human Optimism

Despite my pessimism (realism?) about politics, ever since reading Julian Simon, I have been an optimist when it comes to progress and the human condition. Since the industrial revolution, each generation has lived longer and better than the last. By that measure, the last decade was the best in human history.

This despite the last decade being an unmitigated political disaster, at least in America. President Bush grew government faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson. Between new health care entitlements, massive energy and farm bills, two wars, and more than 30,000 new regulations, the Bush administration was no friend of limited government.

President Obama has so far been no better. If anything, his policies are George W. Bush’s on steroids.

Fortunately, the institutional foundations of the market economy are stronger than any bumbling politician. Wherever there is peace, stability, tolerably low corruption, and secure property rights, people will make their lives better over time, despite meddlesome regulators getting in the way. The pattern is global.

Via Ronald Bailey, a brilliant article in Foreign Policy reinforces that point. Things really are getting better. The last decade was the best in human history. Read the whole thing. If you’re despairing over the state of the world, the data are a wonderful cure for pessimism. Here’s a taste:

Consider that in 1990, roughly half the global population lived on less than $1 a day; by 2007, the proportion had shrunk to 28 percent — and it will be lower still by the close of 2010. That’s because, though the financial crisis briefly stalled progress on income growth, it was just a hiccup in the decade’s relentless GDP climb.

Ancient Noise Ordinances

Some types of regulations go back a very long way.  Some of this is likely only legend, but according to the historian Donald Kagan, local noise ordinances date all the way back to ancient Greece:

At the Gulf of Taranto lay the Greek city of Sybaris, whose citizens’ taste for luxurious living has provided a synonym for voluptuaries. They were said to honor cooks with golden crowns and give them the same honors for preparing a fine meal that they gave to choregoi for staging winning tragedies. They taught their horses to dance and were once defeated in battle when their opponents played tunes on the flute that lured their cavalry away. They went to parties at night and slept all day, imposing the first anti-noise legislation; even roosters were barred from the town.

-Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy,  p. 125.

140 New Regulations in Florida

Florida has one busy legislature. They spend their time on everything from the amount of toilet paper in restaurant bathrooms to fake testicles on the back of pickup trucks.

The mighty Solons of Florida have just passed a whopping 140 new regulations. Hopefully residents can keep them all straight! Highlights:

-If you sell horse meat for human consumption, you should be aware of new labeling rules.

-It is now illegal to own a Burmese python in Florida.

-Or a bong, for that matter.

-Florida’s $100 limit for poker buy-ins is repealed. There is no longer a limit on buy-in amount.

-Want to coach your kid’s youth sports team? You will have to pass a background check.

-The next time you buy over-the-counter cold medicine, you will have to show ID and sign a form.

Federal Regulations and You: Partners in Democracy!

This new video from Reason.tv is great.

Regulation of the Day 136: Off the Record

If you work for the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a regulation requires you to keep records of your off-the-record communications.

Which means off-the-record communications aren’t really off the record.

In fact, 18 CFR 385.2201(b) requires FERC to post a notice in the Federal Register whenever this happens. There was one today, for example. It’s public!

Which brings up the following conundrum: if FERC policy is that off-the-record communications are actually on the record, then there are no off-the-record communications. Therefore, regulations applying to off-the-record communications are at best redundant , because there are no off-the-record comments.

Oh, never mind.

Regulation of the Day 135: Mustache Nets

CORRECTION: It appears that I’ve been had. Commenter Dietsch at Jacob Grier‘s blog points out that the article was probably an April Fool’s joke. There are such things as beard net regulations on the books in various cities. But this particularly amusing story appears not to be true; probably for the better.

Hair nets have been a staple of the food service industry for a long time. They are not the most dignified fashion accessory. But they serve a useful purpose. Just like church and state, hair and food are best kept separate. Hair nets are a much easier way to accomplish that goal than, say, mandatory baldness for all kitchen staffs.

Which brings us to the latest fad in Brooklyn’s trendy Cobble Hill neighborhood: mustache nets. For some reason,Victorian-themed restaurants and bars are all the rage right now. Bars are redecorating with old-fashioned furniture and artwork. Bartenders are redecorating themselves with outlandish 19th-century facial hair, from mutton chops to handlebar mustaches.

Unfortunately, a regulation from approximately the same time period is getting in the way of all this nostalgic fun. New York State law requires all persons with facial hair who are serving food or drink to wear a mustache net.

Regulators have been cracking down on un-netted mustaches. They have cited several establishments, as Chow reports:

The crackdown was a surprise to restaurant employees—one bartender apparently panicked and attempted to hide behind a taxidermied warthog. However, many of those cited have remained defiant.

“I’d be happy to have my staff wear mustache nets—if I could find a sustainable source,” said a representative of one of the establishments targeted in the raid. “And so far, I have not found a mustache net farm whose mustache netting practices I believe in.”

It’s pretty easy to see why the nets aren’t very popular. A Google image search for “moustache net” yields this picture:

Doesn’t exactly befit the image of a chic bartender. But in New York, that’s the law.