The Value of Regulations

A while back I read a profile of Ron Paul that mentioned that he wanted to remove restrictions on unpasteurized milk.  The commentator (Tucker Carlson, I believe), said this was the sort of position that appealed to Ron Paul and roughly seven goat’s milk enthusiasts.  Despite having no experience with unpasteurized milk, I suspect it’s my duty as a wannabe food connoisseur to agree with Paul. Then Paul said something dumb–roughly that we never needed the FDA, that no one would run around selling incredibly unsafe food if the FDA disappeared.  I think Ron Paul might benefit from reading a history book (you know, anyone, really–econ would also be interesting).

So, cognitive dissonance? Here’s my solution (I could just say raw milk is safe, but I don’t know a dickybird about the subject).  I suspect that product safety does the opposite of a “race to the bottom.”  Instead, I think it’s the sort of thing that moves very slowly in a positive direction, when left to the market.  Moreover, it’s probably fairly ‘sticky’–there’s little tendency for important safety measures to disappear once they’ve been adopted.

On to the real target.  I’m fairly strongly against smoking bans (I’m a non-smoking asthmatic, btw).  I think they are rooted in poorly disguised antipathy towards smokers.  But I also think there’s a perfectly decent compromise–given the large number of people who prefer to go out without dealing with smoking, imagine a temporary smoking ban, perhaps one year in duration.  At the end, bars are free to do whatever they want.  But given that a large number of people have gotten to experience smoke-free alcoholism for twelve months, there would be a large and mobile market of people who don’t want smoke.  And since the bars would be used to seeing a non-smoking clientele, there’s no worry that a lot of them wouldn’t capitalize on it.  Some would, to bring in the people who really want a cigarette with their beer.  In short, regulation has made things paradisiacal.   If only I were dictator.


4 responses to “The Value of Regulations

  1. Let the government decide what you eat, if you want. I’d rather think for myself.

  2. I’m now just procrastinating by commenting, but I’ve never heard a temporary ban suggested before, but this seems awesome. The only problem seems to be that it’s overtly manipulative of the government. Smoking bans now are supposed public saftey oriented. But how would you sell a one year ban? “We know your clients better than you do, and to prove it, we’ll make it illegal to run your business as you see fit? Trust us, you’ll see.”
    I’m all for it, but I suspect lots of bar owners would resent it. Banning things for health reasons is the government’s job (at least, I think so), but banning things to influence business decisions… eh… I don’t know.

  3. Well, the argument would be that this is the most minimally coercive way to benefit public health, by tinkering with the market mechanism without fundamentally altering it.

    Admittedly, it’s not likely to attract die-hard partisans of either side.

  4. Well I’ll be darned. I’d never even considered thinking for myself. Typical, isn’t it.

    More substantively, don’t you think that it’s a bit rich to be talking about the government telling you want to eat. I think of the situation as the government helping me meet our shared goal of reducing the E Coli in my food.