Friday, October 8, 2010

The high cost of regulation

This week it came out that the state of California was significantly overestimating the level of air pollution in some areas. Those overestimates forced costly and unnecessary modifications to diesels, among other stringent measures of one of the world's toughest air quality regulationss.

This is a great example of overregulation and the hidden costs (taxes) that act as a drag on our economies.

I have experienced LA smog, and some regulation is necessary. But who regulates the regulators?

Let me give you an example closer to home. My garage door opener does not work well. Mechanically it is fine, but all the required safety devices -- electric eyes and auto backups and so on -- make it unreliable and constantly in need of adjustment. All those problems and it costs a lot to buy it and to install it.

All I wanted was a device to open and close the door without me getting out of the car. What I got was a cranky, difficult opener that may or may not do what it is asked to do. I will admit that it also will not close on any small children (I don't have any) or my cat (who runs away from the door very fast because it makes a lot of noise).

Frankly, I am willing to risk a little additional danger. Give me a simple and cheap device that works and I will be happy.

Other examples, toilets that don't flush properly, lawnmowers that shut off automatically and so on.

And we do not have a choice -- we must buy those with the safety stuff.

What is worse, we all pay for government departments to think up these things that don't work and who enforce the requirements that manufacturers include them and that we do not dismantle them.

Worse still, manufacturing of these devices is done outside the U.S. because those countries do not have nearly as many safety regulations that cut into their profit margins.

Here is my suggestion. Allow people to sign a waiver that the buyer will take full responsibility for the sensible and cautious use of the safety-device-free garage door opener or lawnmower. Given the choice, people would take the responsibility.


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