Posted 2/16/12 by Common Good
The Economist Channels Common Good
This week's cover package is on over-regulation in America. Our cover leader draws on the ideas of Philip Howard, a passionate advocate for simpler laws. For readers who want to read more, here's an essay Mr Howard wrote in December on "Results-Based Regulation". And here's a column we published a couple of years ago on his book "Life Without Lawyers".
The article makes the case for a simpler, less expensive, more effective approach to regulation--exactly what we at Common Good have been fighting for:
Democrats pay lip service to the need to slim the rulebook—Mr Obama’s regulations tsar is supposed to ensure that new rules are cost-effective. But the administration has a bias towards overstating benefits and underestimating costs (see article). Republicans bluster that they will repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank and abolish whole government agencies, but give only a sketchy idea of what should replace them.
America needs a smarter approach to regulation. First, all important rules should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis by an independent watchdog. The results should be made public before the rule is enacted. All big regulations should also come with sunset clauses, so that they expire after, say, ten years unless Congress explicitly re-authorises them.
More important, rules need to be much simpler. When regulators try to write an all-purpose instruction manual, the truly important dos and don’ts are lost in an ocean of verbiage. Far better to lay down broad goals and prescribe only what is strictly necessary to achieve them. Legislators should pass simple rules, and leave regulators to enforce them.