Tag Archives: regulation

Protecting Privilege

Red, yellow and green (unlit) LEDs used in a t...
Image via Wikipedia

Some people will do anything to preserve their privileges. For instance, an engineer working for the Department of Transportation of the state of North Carolina recently initiated an investigation of a private citizen after the citizen presented a well researched and documented argument supporting the installation of traffic lights at two intersections near his house when the state engineer felt there was no such need.

Kevin Lacy, the chief traffic engineer for the DOT of NC apparently felt threatened by these yokels who had presented a solid case indicating his own research to be inadequate, flawed, suspect, etc. Of course, we can’t just let anybody go around making informed decisions and reasonable arguments. I mean, unless we stamp out such uppity paupers, what good will all those expensive college degrees do?

Read all about it at Reason.com

“When you start applying the principles for trip generation and route assignment, applying judgments from engineering documents and national standards, and making recommendations,” that’s technical work a licensed engineer would do, Lacy said.

Lacy is right. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we let just regular, unlicensed people use sophisticated arguments when petitioning their government.

This made me think of a bit of the conversation I first had with deirinberg, the most recent and vocal commentor on many articles here on I, Pandora.

Deirinberg stated his belief that it is a good and necessary thing that those who have attended superb schools, those who have achieved superb things, in short, the elite, run the country. Better than you and I, better than the bumpkins that seem to populate the Republican platform. Initially I agreed with him. There are people far more intelligent, far more well read, far more able in many, many ways, than I, to take the reins of power and steer the great ship of state.

But thinking about this topic more in light of this article I see there is a weakness in that argument. The weakness is that it assumes that what it is I do not know that the elites do know is capable of making a significant difference were we to compare our relative abilities at leadership.

Like getting married, one is never quite ready, even as you’re walking down the aisle hand in hand. As the bloom comes off the rose you are faced with serious issues that are growth or failure opportunities. What is necessary at the outset is not some omniscient knowledge regarding marriage, but a basic level of maturity. A basic modicum of appropriate character.

So it is with leadership, responsibility, power, skill, even engineering: what matters is not the initials after your name or the school your diploma came from, what matters is whether or not you are capable of doing the task. This is also the great fallacy regarding government regulation. The faulty assumption is the same in either case. The government assumes there is somebody who knows best regarding how houses ought to be constructed or stop lights arranged or whatever the case may be.

But, you say, those houses constructed according to standards and regulations survive in “act of God” situations far better than those not so constructed.

The problem with this argument is that those who are most likely to have better ideas which are illegal or do not meet standards and regulations are also those most likely to desire to act in a manner consistent with the law. It’s the same with firearm regulation: when it is against the law for people to own firearms, only those who don’t care for the law will have firearms.

Regulations, standards, bureaucratically determined directions for who things ought to be done are inherently incapable of allowing technology, innovation, fresh ideas, positive growth to improve quality. Instead of pointing out how well standards-built houses survived storm X, Y, or Z, we ought instead to be asking why so many of them failed if they were built the best ability of our amazing technology.

Back to the elites, though. Anytime someone or some group finds themselves more interested in the preservation of their own position than they are in fulfilling the obligations of that position, be they Kevin Lacy, Chief Engineer, or Charles Rangel, Corruptocrat, or anybody else, they have exceeded the point of benefit. And you and I and any others with sufficient clarity of thought and purpose, regardless of our education or aptitudes, guided only by our responsibilities and choices, may step in and do the job we are called to do.

Oh, and reading Kevin’s Myspace profile, it seems like he and I would agree on a lot more points than we’d disagree on.  And he probably has excellent reasons for why he did what he did.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Doesn’t Pass The Sniff Test

Do you want an example of an ideologue attempting to justify his existence at the government trough?

Imagine the tragedy if every day for years on end a crowded jetliner crashed. Then imagine the outrage when the public learned that those tragedies had been preventable, but that the airlines and government had done nothing. Fortunately, jetliners rarely crash. But excessive salt in our food is causing several hundred preventable deaths every day—100,000 deaths each and every year. And the food industry and government have done virtually nothing.

Sorry, this doesn’t pass the sniff test.

Writer Michael Jacobson would have to add a lot of qualifiers to the statement before it made it past the sniff test.

First off, salt is not killing several hundred people a day. Accurately interpreting the words Michael has chosen leads to only one conclusion, salt kills several hundred people a day. And hundreds of thousands of people who drink water die every day. A more accurate statement would be “medical conditions related to high-sodium diets are factors in several hundred deaths each day.”

Salt doesn’t kill. In fact, salt is a necessary part of our bodies ability to regulate its water levels. High levels of sodium in our bodies alerts us with the sensation of thirst. And without sodium, the water would not travel into the necessary cells. It works in much the same way a good sauce flavors meat, by passing liquids back and forth across the various membranes until the saline (salt) levels equalize on both sides.

The second problem with Michael Jacobson’s arguments are his assumption that government regulation is the best source of a solution to the problem of high-sodium diets.

First off, any such regulation is flatly contradictory to the stipulations of the Constitution of the United States of America. The amount of salt a person consumes is completely within their rights to self-determination.

Not to say there isn’t an issue with the overall health of our nation. However, such issues illustrate the inappropriateness of government involvement in health and other private decisions and responsibilities. If the government wants to require that food stamps and WIC and other welfare assistance programs only be used on low-sodium foods, that’s OK. That particular cat is already out of that particular bag. And if you live on the government dole you live at their behest.

I don’t live at the government’s behest. I live in spite of the government.

Secondly, there are those who still live a healthy and active lifestyle whose bodies use and process higher levels of sodium effectively.

According to an evolutionary understanding, due to the necessity of hard labor to survival, our bodies evolved to prefer high-fat, high-starch, high-salt foods because they stored much higher levels of energy necessary for the long days in the fields and on the hunt.

According to a creationary understanding, God designed our bodies to prefer the foods that conveyed most effectively the elements essential to our carrying out the stipulations of the curse.

Either way, we’re tuned to want this stuff even if we don’t need it. But some do, and that is the inherent failure of each and every government regulation. There is simply no way a blanket rule can be applied without it causing harm to some without a corresponding benefit.

John Tate counters Michael Jacobson:

Supporters of intervention are focusing on the overconsumption of salt. Point taken. However, the problem of overconsumption derives more from personal choice than from sodium intake under circumstances beyond one’s control, such as when large amounts of sodium were added to food products without information to consumers.

People are presented with all the data needed to make an informed decision. Warnings about excessive sodium abound. Product labels list the amount of sodium each serving contains. Restaurants are increasingly supplying nutritional guides. The responsibility lies with the consumer on how to act on this knowledge.

Most Americans do not seem to be choosing to restrict their own salt intake, and the FDA is looking to use this outcome to justify intervening in everyone’s food choices “for our own good.” But no amount of such intervention will ever force people to make good choices. What will regulators do if this idea doesn’t work? Resort to policing salt intake within people’s own homes? Where does dictating the actions of others “for their own good” end?

As Tate mentions, the argument that many people are unwise in their decisions regarding nutrition is valid. But when it comes to the government of the United States of America, there is this niggling detail. All arguments regarding the role and responsibility of the government must begin with the Constitution. And only if they pass that muster may they proceed to whether they are logical, practical, necessary, or wise. If there is truly compelling reasons, the Constitution may be amended, as it has in the past. But the failure of Constitutional amendments today serves to highlight the paucity of truly revolutionary ideas in government.

Tate ends thus:

Ultimately, the risk we take by trusting Americans to make their own decisions is significantly less than the sacrifice we make by continuing to excuse actions by a government that has repeatedly proven its total disregard for the limits imposed by the Constitution.

Government Gets It Wrong. Again.

Evil phone attacking innocent but distracted motorist

A new study is out reporting that laws forbidding cell phone use, both texting and calling, while driving do not have a significant impact on the number of car accidents. Instead, it’s distractions, not just cell phones, that kill.

In the Wall Street Journal:

Laws that forbid motorists from using hand-held phones or texting while driving don’t appear to result in a significant decrease in vehicle crashes, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute expected to be released Friday.The study, expected to be released at a conference in Washington, D.C., Friday, comes amid stepped-up efforts by federal highway-safety regulators to ban texting while driving and curb other forms of driver distraction. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood earlier this week announced rules to forbid commercial truck and bus drivers from text messaging while driving. Mr. LaHood has said he would ban all texting while driving if he could.

But the government and do-gooders who live by restricting others will not give up so easily.

The Transportation Department won’t be troubled with little things like facts:

…it is irresponsible to suggest that laws banning cell phone use while driving have zero effect on the number of crashes on our nation’s roadways. A University of Utah study shows that using a cell phone while driving can be just as dangerous and deadly as driving drunk. We know that by enacting and enforcing tough laws, states have reduced the number of crashes leading to injuries and fatalities.

In that statement they claim one substantiated claim, that the University of Utah found cell phone driving is as bad as drunk driving, and one unsubstantiated claim phrased in such as way as to scoff at substantiation, “We know that by enacting and enforcing tough laws, states have reduced the number of crashes leading to injuries and fatalities.”

That’s pretty much the same as leading an argument with “everybody knows…”, appealing to common sense without factual basis.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, which sponsored this new study, is financed by the insurance industry. This will lend credence to the study as insurance companies need to mitigate risk in order to maximize profit, and this report claims there is much less risk than previously assumed.

The facts (WSJ):

The HLDI studied data on monthly collision claims in four states that banned the use of hand-held phones by motorists before and after the bans went into effect. The HLDI also compared collision data from states that enacted bans on driving while texting or phoning to accident claims in states that didn’t enact such bans.

In New York, HLDI said its researchers found that collision claims decreased compared to other states, but the decrease began before the state’s ban on hand-held phoning took effect.

The HLDI data don’t show whether drivers involved in accidents were using cellphones at the time. But the HLDI said in a statement “reductions in observed phone use following bans are so substantial and estimated effects of phone use on crash risk are so large that reductions in aggregate crashes would be expected.”

So what are we left with? Restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving which do not affect the number of accidents.

Sounds like and apology and lifting of the regulations is in order.

Likelihood of this occuring? Nil.

Story in CNET.

Story in the Wall Street Journal.

Boeing And The Pro-Business Government

787 Dreamliner
787 Dreamliner

Conservatives are often accused of being pro-business while Liberals consider themselves more pro-people and therefore the better of the two.

As a conservative, I accept that accusation and wear it proudly. I am pro-business.

Liberals, in their desire to be more pro-people than pro-business, though, haven’t the foggiest idea they’re actually hurting people more than helping them.

The illustration today comes from the far north-west corner of the contiguous 48, Seattle.

Boeing has just decided to not build it’s new 787 Dreamliner factory in Seattle. The taxes and regulatory environment is simply too taxing. It costs Boeing too much money to expand their operations in Seattle, and so they’ve moved to North Carolina.

In Seattle it would have taken years to navigate the permit process to build the massive new hangars. In North Carolina, it took days.

Because the government of Seattle and Washington state have failed to make it easy enough for businesses to begin, run, and maintain operations, thousands of jobs will be lost directly, or moved to North Carolina, and the myriad of dependent suppliers and small businesses which were supported by the employees of Boeing will lose most or all of their income.

So the liberal mind says “Yes! We showed that polluting monster who’s boss!”. And the conservative shakes their head.

Many people will move from Seattle to North Carolina now to continue working. These are productive and well-payed people who likely paid significant taxes on their income to Seattle and Washington state. With even less tax revenue the city and the state will have to decrease social services to the unproductive public teat slurpers.

Now that can’t make the liberals happy. So they’ll raise taxes on the poor saps left behind so they don’t have to lose any of their bought-off voting bloc.

North Carolina is directly benefiting from increased construction in the short term, and a massive influx of highly skilled jobs as well as the necessary social structures and new markets for delis and theatres and parks and playgrounds. By being pro-business North Carolina will reap the benefits of massive growth in tax revenue without even raising their tax rates.

There’s nothing pro-people about an anti-business environment.

There are caveats or qualifications to 100% business centric government that I believe are reasonable and necessary.

First, I don’t agree with any government, federal, state, or local, applying special tax breaks and exemption from processes for the purpose of attracting a single company. North Carolina has pushed through a deal that makes it easier for Boeing to operate in that state than an average business started by Joe Entrepreneur. Overall, the state is still much easier to work in than Seattle, but I believe, on principle, that the fact the state government had to scramble to build this special package should have indicated their overall regulatory and business environment isn’t quite what it ought to be for everybody.

Second, government regulation is often pro-specific-business rather than anti-general-business. Al Gore profits measurably from “green” technology. He’s put his money where his mouth is. Pro-green regulation benefits him directly as companies will work with his outfits to implement the required changes.

Regulation can also be pushed by large corporations which will still effect them, but because they are so much larger, the monetary penalty will be a much smaller percentage of the large company’s operating costs than for a small company. The small company will no longer be able to compete as the regulatory costs hit them hardest.

Regulation can also be used to stifle competition and build artificial barriers to the self-regulating abilities of the free market. Network Neutrality is an example of this. Google and other large content companies are the primary supporters and lobbyists for network neutrality. They are dependent on the infrastructure companies, such as AT&T to actually get their content to the end users, and they want to use the bludgeon of federal regulation to protect them from free market pressures brought by the carriers.

With the caveats that pro-business should mean, in an ideal world, pro-all-businesses, we find that a pro-business government environment is directly pro-people as well.

If governments realized the nature of this, there would be a race to the bottom in taxation and government leanness as states vied for the privilege of being the best for business. And the growth in business would mean more employed people, higher standard of living, and more tax revenue.

The final question is: are they willfully or ignorantly blind?

Previous articles on the free market:

Net Neutrality: Taken For Fools

I, Pandora has had a mixed history on Network Neutrality.

Network what?

Network Neutrality is one response to fears that infrastructure and service companies, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, spell doom for the freedom of the internet as they inevitably begin controlling access to content, enhancing access to content they own, control, or partner with, and limiting access to content they deem contrary to their best interest.

The majority of Network Neutrality supporters want the FCC to step in and set rules requiring the infrastructure/service companies provide equal access to all content and forbidding them from interfering in any way with the freedom of the internet.

Sounds good, right?

As with any other debate, you have to get to the deeper issues. And this debate is rife with deeper issues.

When I first heard of Network Neutrality I was gung-ho for it. I did not understand the goals at the heart of this push.

“Don’t be hasty, master Hobbit!”

There was a reason liberal Democrat leaders were more for this program than Republicans and conservatives. Liberals dream of more regulation and control and private and free systems. The freer the system the stronger the urge to a liberal to regulate it.

My confusion over Network Neutrality did not continue long. I supported it in March of 2007, and by August of that year I wrote about the inherent conflict between government regulation and innovation.

Government regulation is the enemy of innovation.

In the arguments over Net Neutrality, I feel for the plebes. I don’t want my traffic throttled any more than it already is by the ISP. But is it the government’s responsibility to control this? And if we allow the government to say who can access the internet and at what speed, where is our moral authority when the government wants to say who can’t access the internet?

Perhaps I am more libertarian than I like to think myself to be.

Later I quoted Rep. John Sununu (R – New Hampshire) regarding the slippery slope of wishing for government interference:

If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that it’s pretty presumptuous to predict what the future will be. We should be very, very cautious about imposing regulations based on what we think competitors will do in the future and how we think consumers will respond based on what we think competitors will do.

Gee, that sounds familiar.

Oh, yea. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a 60 minutes spot on healthcare and specifically Medicare and Medicaid’s extremely high levels of fraud made perhaps the most blind statement regarding human nature I’ve ever heard from a lawman:

People didn’t think that something as well-intentioned as Medicare and Medicaid would necessarily attract um… fraudsters.

People not thinking. Not considering the implications of what they want.

Just because it’s well intentioned doesn’t mean it’s right and good and free of the failings that so plague us mortals.

Are Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast completely good in their actions so far regarding the internet? No.

Comcast has been slapped once for purposely throttling connections to certain types of content during peak times load times.

But is the government the solution?

In my article regarding regulation versus innovation I make it clear that while there is a place for regulation, that regulation is best applied to the government itself, limiting it’s ability to tamper with our system of free enterprise.

There is a question I’d ask of anybody regarding this issue. If Thomas Edison were alive today which entity would be the greatest enemy of his innovation: Government or Business?

Sonia Ericson, writing in TechNewsWorld today provides a meaningful and realistic and proven alternative to network neutrality: private control.

ICANN is currently the organization closest to being “in control” of the internet.

It’s a private organization which controls the distribution and changes to the domain names which make the internet navigable.

(A)sking the FCC to “protect” the Internet means inviting government oversight, which injects more politics — not less — into the operation of the Net.

Sonia then talks about someone I’ve met:

Ashwin Navin, cofounder of BitTorrent, also says he doesn’t support government regulation of the Net, even though his name appears on an OIC letter. He says he’d rather see Internet service providers come up with a self-regulatory plan based on a pledge to keep the Net open and the creation of a third body to arbitrate. Indeed, Navin says that his own company’s scuffle with Comcast was ultimately solved without formal rules after a netizen noticed that Comcast was degrading service and brought the matter to the public’s attention.

“The problem is disclosure,” Navin says. “Consumers need to know if the ISP, which is the most invisible layer in the stack, is responsible for an improved or degraded experience for any of the services they use.”

Geek Out Alert!

In my days working for Fry’s Electronics, Ashwin’s step-dad hired us to build and repair his wireless network. He introduced me to Horchata and I watched the Blue Angels practice over his backyard. Ashwin and his brother came by once while I was there and I basked in the presence of those gods of the internet, the business minds behind BitTorrent.

But Ashwin has a point. A good point. A point I may elaborate on further in the future.

Suffice to say that information is the grease for the wheels of the free market and capitalism. And the internet, above all else in the history of markets, has enabled the dissemination of information more efficiently and the finding and gauging of information more easily.

Why do we trust the government to act in our best interest when it comes to such a powerful information force as the internet? The government has no competitors to blow the whistle on it’s misdeeds. The government self-interest lies in a dearth of information.

Trust the government and be taken for a fool. I’ll not be joining you in your foolishness.