The Personal Cost of Regulation

 

shutterstock_247868038We hear occasionally about the tremendous burden government regulations place on the economy. According to FreedomWorks, the petty tyrants of the alphabet agencies place well over $1 trillion per year of added expense on the nation.

This is important, but it misses how that money is not merely one giant glob of currency ripped from the economy. Each dollar stands alone as money pulled from an individual’s pocket, as food never laid upon a table, as a vacation never taken, and as a Christmas present that will never sit beneath a tree.

It’s easy to see why regulators want to regulate. As Kevin Williamson wrote in 2010:

WELCOME to Washington, Mr. Smith, and welcome to the Agency. I salute your determination to apply common sense in Washington, to fix what’s broken in order to serve the public interest and the common good. Weirdly enough, everybody in Washington wants to do that: Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party patriots, Barney Frank. These guys don’t agree on much, but they all sincerely want to do what’s best for the country, pretty much to a man.

There is no cabal of evil government bureaucrats stirring their cauldrons and conspiring to make individual lives harder. On the contrary, these people work diligently to do what seems to them to be good things that will help the nation. But, they can’t. They are incapable of positively effecting outcomes because they suffer from a severe lack of information. More precisely, they cannot know how their well meaning regulations will effect real people in the real world irrespective of their motivations and intentions. Back to Williamson:

The head-clutching paradox is that 536 elected Washingtonians and endless phalanxes of well-meaning appointees such as yourself wring such hideously wretched results out of such idealistic intentions. There is an explanation for that—so, if you’ll forgive me for the spoilsportsmanship and for tempering your understandably high post-appointment spirits with some gritty reality, it is my duty to inform you: You do not know what you are doing. Probably never will. You do not even know what you are talking about, and I mean that literally.

These people may fancy themselves experts in their fields, but they are certainly not experts at everything their regulations will touch. They can only know what they want to cause, but they will always fail to foresee or account for what their regulations actually do cause.

The personal cost of regulation is weighing heavily on me right now because of my recent entanglement with well intentioned regulations that were obviously written for the public’s good, but have become a personal burden.

My occupation requires me to carry a commercial driver’s license. As is probably obvious to anyone, vehicles weighing thousands of pounds (hundreds of thousands in my case) pose a potential threat to the public if not operated properly by competent, capable people. Such a threat opens the door to government regulations. One such constraint on vehicle operators of any sort is adequate health. With commercial vehicles the health requirements become even more stringent. With this in mind, Congress and the Department of Transportation (DoT) have regulated the type of physical a person must pass to be licensed. One such requirement is to bar anyone with a potentially incapacitating condition that is not properly controlled through adequate treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the newest condition to make the list of potentially incapacitating diseases. It is some of that common sense Williamson writes about to not want a person who can’t achieve adequate rest to doze off and turn an 80,000-lb. rig into an unguided missile on the highway. The problem, however, is that not everyone who has sleep apnea knows about it. The solution: more regulation.

Recently the DoT published advisory guidelines containing sleep apnea risk factors to screen for when conducting physicals. Because these guidelines are only recommendations which do not have the force of law, the department cannot bar people with an undiagnosed condition from licensure, but they can threaten a physician’s ability to issue medical certifications should he not comply with the guidelines and fail to deny medical certification to people unless they seek treatment for undiagnosed illnesses.

This, then, is where I find myself. I’ve never had a problem with drowsiness on the job, never had problems staying awake during the day, and never had sleep problems that impaired my ability to perform my assigned tasks. Reality, however, does not matter to the regulators. I’m not of a certain shape or size, so I must incur the expense of seeking a diagnosis of a condition for which I show no signs of having.

Compounding matters, though I carry a commercial driver’s license, I do not do what almost all CDL holders do, namely drive heavy vehicles on public roadways. I don’t drive long hours over the plains, negotiate steep mountain passes, or contend with busy city traffic. When I drive I don’t even worry about oncoming traffic because there is none. I drive slowly over a short distance on closed roadways. The weight and contents of the load are of a sort which pretty much guarantees alertness regardless of how tired one might be.

Where this gets really personal is that at work we have an event once a year that requires us to provide around-the-clock support to the fleet for several weeks straight. As it stands, I’m scheduled for about 60 hours of overtime. It’s a grueling schedule to keep, but that much extra money coming in right before the holiday season is something we plan on in my shop.

Since May I’ve had to extend my temporary medical certification three times to coincide with every step in the process of determining whether or not I have sleep apnea, with the Navy doctor who conducts the physical becoming harder to deal with at every extension. When he withheld his signature yesterday, the day before my certification expired, this petty tyrant, acting at the behest of well meaning regulators in Washington, effectively cancelled Christmas at my house. This well intentioned regulation which accomplishes nothing on behalf of the public by preventing me from doing my job carries a high personal cost.

Thankfully — or perhaps due to some well placed ranting on my part — the physician has relented and given me an extension for another month. Next week I’ll hook some mad scientist’s contraption to my face in hopes of proving once and for all that I am of adequate health to continue performing tasks I’ve accomplished flawlessly for nearly a decade.

John Locke defined the state of nature (man’s perfect liberty) as

a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.

In today’s America, where every action is regulated to the nth degree, we find ourselves asking leave and depending on the will of well meaning but clueless bureaucrats in a state that can be best described as perfectly contrary to liberty.

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  1. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Great personalized example of the boundless bureaucracy we’ve built ourselves.

    I wish you all the best getting through this mess King Prawn.

    • #1
  2. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    If it helps any, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea after an overnight sleep study, hooked up to a Cpap to sleep with for a year. Several months ago went to a heart/lung specialist who did different type of test with tubes and ex-rays, and guess what? No sleep apnea. So, should you be diagnosed, over $1000 worth of machine and supplies are yours for the shipping cost. A many of the nose masks and tubes never  out of their packages.

    • #2
  3. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    And stop procrastinating, just go get it done! Your livelihood depends on it.

    • #3
  4. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    The King Prawn: On the contrary, these people work diligently to do what seems to them to be good things that will help the nation.

    “I will fight for you!”, the usual cliche of candidates at every level, grates on me like nails on chalkboard.

    Almost every single regulation on the books was designed with wonderful intentions.  Whether it’s safety of the public, healthcare for the poor, or clean air and water, you’re right that there is no malicious intent.  But voters, in their blinding stupidity, fall for the candidate who promises “to fight for them!” against mysterious and nefarious forces at the state capital or Washington.

    The result is the hours limitations, medical restrictions, ever-expanding EPA rules and Obamacare.

    There was a very recent, former, presidential candidate who said “I want government to be inconsequential to your daily lives”.  Voters obvious don’t care about that.

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    It applies even if the sleep apnea is being treated?

    • #5
  6. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    I’m so sorry, KP.  Have you read Charles Murray’s By the People?  We all need to get on board with his plan.  I hope you get the all-clear in the next month, which of course, you deserve!

    • #6
  7. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Kay of MT:And stop procrastinating, just go get it done! Your livelihood depends on it.

    I’ve taken the earliest available appointment for each step in the process, and I’m almost 5 months into it anyway.

    • #7
  8. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Percival:It applies even if the sleep apnea is being treated?

    If it is diagnosed it must be treated and compliance with the treatment verified annually to maintain medical certification. I can see where this makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is compelling people without a diagnosis to seek one, in my case based almost exclusively on BMI, not actual symptoms such as daytime drowsiness or observation of interrupted respiration during sleep (and my wife watches for this), but on a height/weight ratio. To make matters even more grating, the pulmonologist said that if this wasn’t for a DoT physical he would just tell me to lose a few pounds. This has nothing to do with sound medicine and everything to do with regulatory compliance.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The King Prawn:

    Percival:It applies even if the sleep apnea is being treated?

    If it is diagnosed it must be treated and compliance with the treatment verified annually to maintain medical certification. I can see where this makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is compelling people without a diagnosis to seek one, in my case based almost exclusively on BMI, not actual symptoms such as daytime drowsiness or observation of interrupted respiration during sleep (and my wife watches for this), but on a height/weight ratio. To make matters even more grating, the pulmonologist said that if this wasn’t for a DoT physical he would just tell me to lose a few pounds. This has nothing to do with sound medicine and everything to do with regulatory compliance.

    Okay. Yeah, if all they have is that you are the right size, then they are pushing it too hard.

    • #9
  10. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    We are past the statist tipping point, we are in the No Way Out zone.

    • #10
  11. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    You know KP, you have some illustrious company. Bob Hoover, WWII ace, used to do air shows in a Twin Commander performing rolls and loops close to the ground with one engine feathered. After an air show, I think late 1990’s, the the flight line topped off his Commander with Jet Fuel instead of AvGas. After take off both engines quit and he made a forced landing in a field. The FAA pulled his medical certificate. The man was a world class pilot with no medical problems and yet the FAA refused to reissue his medical so he was grounded.

    Bob Hoover was as good as it gets.

    • #11
  12. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    I’ll go ahead and add a little more irony to the journey: being subject to the DoT regulations is entirely voluntary on the part of the Dept. of the Navy. Another new DoT regulation is that all interstate drivers must keep a copy of their medical certificate on file with the state issuing the driver’s license. Each time I renew my license I check the box marked “Government Employee, Exempt” and give them nothing.

    • #12
  13. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Considering human nature, and the desire for money being powerful in a capitalist society which causes people to do some negligent or reckless things in the pursuit thereof, business is going to be regulated and subject to lawsuits.

    I suppose we try to find a balance between the two.

    I prefer lawsuits to regulation.  Regulation costs those in the industry who have done nothing wrong money.  Lawsuits target just he guy in the industry who did something wrong.

    Insurances, compulsory or otherwise, come into play in this analysis.

    • #13
  14. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Tommy De Seno: Lawsuits target just he guy in the industry who did something wrong.

    Except the frivolous ones, but, like you said — balance.

    • #14
  15. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    The King Prawn:

    Tommy De Seno: Lawsuits target just he guy in the industry who did something wrong.

    Except the frivolous ones, but, like you said — balance.

    Those are rare.

    You’ll find plenty more instances of frivolous defenses than frivolous complaints.

    • #15
  16. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    I’m about to finish building our retirement home and can really sympathize with you. Some regulations make sense in a general way but just don’t fit with the design I created for or house. I’m having to do expensive things that are unwanted and unnecessary, some of which I’ll undo after the inspections are finished. This is liberty?

    • #16
  17. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    Tales of regulation gone nonsensical and even harmful like this are all to common. Regulation is one-size-fits-all, oh, with the best of intentions (usually, not always). Regulation is most efficient at a nay one thing: stifling innovation.

    • #17
  18. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    Merina Smith:I’m so sorry, KP. Have you read Charles Murray’s By the People? We all need to get on board with his plan. I hope you get the all-clear in the next month, which of course, you deserve!

    Merina,

    Good suggestion.  I looked it up and may buy it.  Here’s the Amazon link.

    • #18
  19. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    Godspeed, KP.  It seems like you’ve been through enough lately.

    • #19
  20. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    I am building a new house and trying to start a yard.  I live in Indiana, where we get more water than we need from the sky.  So wasting water is not an issue.  This weekend I turned on the sprinkler on my new house and the water only went about 5 foot.  Why?  All the hose spigots restrict the water flow.  So, now it takes twice as long to water my yard and I have to move the sprinkle twice as often.

    Oh I all the other devices also restrict flow (shower, tub, kitchen faucet, etc.).  It drives me nuts.

    • #20
  21. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Pony Convertible: Oh I all the other devices also restrict flow (shower, tub, kitchen faucet, etc.). It drives me nuts.

    I have a post in development about the new urinals at work that are so efficient they don’t even dilute the urine in them.

    • #21
  22. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    The King Prawn:

    Pony Convertible: Oh I all the other devices also restrict flow (shower, tub, kitchen faucet, etc.). It drives me nuts.

    I have a post in development about the new urinals at work that are so efficient they don’t even dilute the urine in them.

    At least they’ve not gone yet to composting toilets.

    • #22
  23. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Pony Convertible: Oh I all the other devices also restrict flow (shower, tub, kitchen faucet, etc.). It drives me nuts.

    If your state doesn’t have a water problem, you can take the flow restrictors out of the spigots. I took them out of my shower head and the kitchen faucet. I refuse to let the apt management replace my toilet either, it flushes just fine. I don’t have to flush it 4 times for one use.

    • #23
  24. Nancy Spalding Thatcher
    Nancy Spalding
    @NancySpalding

    often you can go online, across state borders, or to a yard sale to get usable spigots etc. which are not tailored to those rules; get spares!

    • #24
  25. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    Someone should be (and perhaps someone is) collecting regulatory horror stories to dramatize them.  Reality TV maybe.  It is not until the those who never suffer much from regulation hear poignant stories from those that do will there be enough pressure on our elected representatives to cut government, eliminate agencies and reform others to cut red tape.

    As I think about it, I like there reality TV idea.  We need a title.  How about “Red Tape Horror Picture Show.”  “FrankenGov” “Stupid Government Tricks”

    • #25

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