19 January 2011

"Just Plain Dumb" ~ Where the Burdens of Regulation Actually Fall

The other day Obama ventured onto the opinion page at The Wall Street Journal to, as the mainstream press put it, extend an olive branch to "the business community." He offered up this lecture about the need to adopt grown up approach to regulation. It never occurred to me that Obama needed to mend fences with business, in large measure because on virtually every issue he has been supine in that respect already. Think about how he approached health care reform by accommodating industry demands before the legislative process commenced. That is why we got an incoherent effort at health insurance reform instead of a reform of health care system. So, now what will happen is that administrative agencies will spend their time navel gazing (reassessing existing rules) instead of applying them. And industry lobbyists - and here is where the money really counts in politics - will spend their time and effort defining for regulators which rules are especially burdensome.

Coincidentally, last night Susan and I watched Gasland a film that raises serious questions about the natural gas industry, their access to government officials, the ways they have been exempted from environmental regulations, and the consequences of all that for the lives of regular people. The tale is not a pretty one. And the problems the film documents are coming to a town or village near you as the industry aggressively pushes to deploy dangerous drilling techniques in more and more areas. Watching the film made me wonder why it was that the EPA, Bureau of Land Management and various State level agencies were not doing even a minimally good job at protecting us from industry. Obama has nothing to say about that.

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Blogger Cyranos DeMet said...

Mr. Johnson, I am not a conservative, nor am I a liberal, I am pragmatic idealist. Just to make that distinction clear right up front.

My good man, if you think you can do a better job of running the world would you please show the rest of us? I mean the world of fire and steel, the world of reality, not the hash-trash world of political opinion? Can you keep people warm in the winter? Grow the food to feed them, fuel whatever is used to move that food to them? Put clothes on them, produce their medicines? Can you? Not pay someone else to do it, not pass a law that is nothing more than a thugs threat against the competent, but actually do it yourself? Until you can you might want to consider the motives of those who slander and attack the very industries that keep them alive.

Let me provide a clue: their motive is to make sure the liberal/environmental cause remains what it currently is: utterly impotent as measured against reality.

Where there is no love to be lost between myself and liberalism I do support the cause of preserving the functionality of our common life support system, to wit the ecosphere of planet earth, and it is a frustrating thing to watch that cause being so totally sabotaged by its' affiliation with techno-ignoramus' of modern liberalism.

Will they never learn that to those they need most to recruit, the people who actually do the work, the ones who very literally risk their lives to provide what the liberals consider naturally occurring, you know, electricity in wires, gas in pipes, water in pipes for that matter, all those kinds of things, don't they understand that showing those people a picture of some freaking idiot in a gas mask playing a banjo just proves you have nothing of any consequence to say? But go figure. The people who produced that picture are the same people so stupid as to think a politician's opinion would influence a 20,000 psi blow-out on an undersea oil well.

22 January, 2011 04:55  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


Thanks for your comment. Let me be clear. I am neither a conservative nor a liberal - especially in matters of political economy.

How is this for a paraphrase of your comment? "Jim, you are a mere harping complainer while "the competent" are out there making the world livable."

That is a mode of argument that defenders of "the competent" regularly raise in the face of criticism of pretty obvious incompetence.

Let's see .... how about a few recent of examples of great competence ... first, the lethal explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia last spring ... the BP oil spill last summe ... the ongoing economic disaster, brought to you by the speculators and money lenders ... a war in Iraq that was and is senseless and unjustifiable which has mostly distracted us from the fiasco in Afghanistan which is simply put, being lost day-by-day ...

Are those the work of your "competent" agents, out doing constructive things and therefore above criticism?

Let's remember that we live in a democracy. Among the primary features of democracy is that it allows and thrives on argument and criticism. Given the (very, very partial) litany of mayhem induced by incompetence and hypocrisy I've just mentioned, why is it that we ought to be turning attention to DE-REGULATION!?! After all one could make a serious, persuasive case that it is precisely the lack or ineffectual implementation of regulations on the rapacious that have gotten us into our current mess.

The film I recommend is a nice example of how "the competent" work. So, to have Obama sucking up to "the business community" (who recognize no obligation to anyone but themselves - how is that a community) is a particularly pathetic sight.


22 January, 2011 10:57  
Blogger Cyranos DeMet said...


A fine answer you make. As predictable as the salute at the beginning of the fencing match, but still, a fine answer. Shall we?

To begin with I'd like to dispose of the nonsensical idea that competence played any part in any of the disasters you mention, add that you forgot to mention Chernobyl and Bhopal, and impeach what I see as the driving cause of most such events: the dangerous pathology of the political mindset empowered to overrule the judgment of the competent in matters of reality.

Simple observation gives that political thought is even more prevalent in the corporate world than in the public sector. The justifications offered, the rationalizations employed most certainly vary between the two domains, but the foundation structure of political thought is of a common nature, and that is the erroneous assumption an opinion, or a consensus of opinion has the ability to create a change in reality. The consensus of opinion may change a motive or a method and in changing those cause a change in reality to be observed, but the agent of change was not the opinion, the differences in concrete interactions caused the change in reality.

It would appear you are assuming I am opposed to regulation of the dangerous industries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having worked a full career in such industries I can say with certainty two things: they must be regulated, and they must be regulated by the competent (those whose understandings are of the laws of reality and realities response to the application of those laws) rather than by the political (whose intuitions involve the shifting terrain of the human psyche which by reason of its' undefined and observably transitory nature does not technically qualify as reality, for all that it is the host and home of our consciousness). The examples you gave of incompetence empowered by the political are unforgivable, regulations are written to make sure the political does not have the ability to compromise competence in such a manner.

The political should have known better than to mess with what they didn't understand, particularly playing with what the drilling crew knew full well was the meanest monster of a hole they'd ever worked, or the political deciding shareholder confidence was of more value than proper maintenance in one of the most dangerous occupations on earth. And that's without even mentioning what went down at Chernobyl, where the political produced what truly could have been a continent killing scenario held at bay only by the full on heroism of that fire brigade who went in to see what the whale the alarms were all about, came out, looked at their dosimeters and said "we are dead men standing, we stand and fight." You ever see pictures of what that kind of radiation does to a man? And they stood and fought fire in that condition. The political has some dues to pay in its own right.

President Obama is doing a world class magnificent job of working both domains, the political and the real. He may well go down in history named in conjunction with Abe Lincoln. But it is non sequitur to speak of his work in the same context with say the work of producing enough natural gas to keep the world warm since the two jobs do not even share a common vocabulary. Yet another place where the liberals impede their own cause, attempting to compel reality to fit the floating vocabulary they invented for dealing with the political.

That's five hundred words, close enough. Tag, you're up. *grin*

22 January, 2011 14:06  

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