The New York Times Covers Over-regulation

 

It may not be exactly the coming of the Messiah, but seeing a front-page story in the New York Times about over-regulation certainly feels like a breakthrough of note. Titled “One Apple Orchard and 5000 Government Rules,” the story focuses on the Indian Ladder Farms apple orchard in Altamont, NY. A small, family-run business owned by Peter Ten Eyck, the farm does the bulk of its business in the fall (naturally). Their busy season includes sales to supermarkets, direct sales to consumers, visits from busloads of schoolchildren, and “pick your own” days. That’s also the time, or it was last October, when government inspectors showed up demanding to see reams of paperwork to ensure that the farm was in compliance with immigration rules, OSHA guidelines, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other laws and regulations.

Over the course of the next several days, the family and staff had to devote about 40 hours to compiling 22 different kinds of records – everything from vehicle registrations to insurance certificates to employee time sheets. The federal rules on ladder safety alone amount to thousands of words. “It’s terribly disruptive,” Ten Eyck complains.

The accumulation of regulations year after year and decade after decade at some point breaks the camel’s back. As the Mercatus Center at George Mason University records, the sheer volume of federal regulations has more than tripled since 1970. When Nixon was president, the federal register contained 35.4 million words. By 2016, that had expanded to 104.6 million words. The King James Bible makes do with 783,137 words.

Is this anything for the average person to worry about? It is if you consult economist Simeon Djankov who compiles the annual “Ease of Doing Business” rating for the World Bank. Nations that streamline regulation and keep costs down show better economic growth and lower rates of poverty than nations that do the opposite. The US has slipped in the rankings from third best country in which to do business in 2009 to seventh in 2016. Venezuela fell from 70th place in 2007 to 188th (just two above the worst nation, Somalia) in 2017.

Our bureaucratic kudzu isn’t just federal. Businesses must also comply with municipal and state regulations. Steven Teles of Johns Hopkins University coined a term for this complex and overlapping system in an article for National Affairs. He called it “kludgeocracy.” A kludge is apparently a computer term for “an inelegant patch put in place to solve an unexpected problem and designed to be backward-compatible with the rest of an existing system … you get a very complicated program that … is exceedingly difficult to understand, and is subject to crashes.” I like it because it sounds like a combination of clutter and sludge — kludge.

Baylen Linnekin, a food law and policy expert the Times consulted, said “So many of the farmers I’ve spoken with tell me that stricter and stricter regulations have put many of their neighbors and friends out of business, and in doing so cost them their homes, land, and livelihoods.”

Our kludgeocracy works to the benefit of the politically connected (who can lobby for special tax breaks), big companies (who can bear the costs of regulation better than smaller competitors), and grantees of hundreds of government programs who become active constituencies for their particular slice of the pie. For everyone else, the regulatory labyrinth increases costs (an estimated annual $10,000 per worker is due to regulation costs), depresses economic vitality, and promotes cynicism about opportunities for reform.

President Trump has made a start at paring back some federal regulations, but a full assault on the kludgeocracy will require a more comprehensive approach. It might include requiring publicly accessible cost/benefit analyses of all proposed new regulations and ongoing evaluations of older regulations for their economic impact. New rules should be examined for duplication at every level of government, and should include estimates of how much compliance will cost businesses. Regulations ought to be sunsetted after a fixed number of years. If the agency or congress agrees that they are still needed, they can reauthorize them.

Consumers expect governments to regulate health and safety, but there are always trade-offs. The Ted Eycks may not be able to afford the new FDA regulations that are scheduled to kick in next year. The new rules, which are predicted to include more ground water testing and other procedures, may drive more small farms out of business leading to more produce imports from abroad. Sounds counterproductive — or you could say kludgey.

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There are 19 comments.

  1. Locke On Member

    FYI, kludge is generally pronounced ‘klooj’ – as an informal term it dates back to (at least) the mainframe computer days. And it’s just what you get when you have an unaccountable, unconstitutional fourth branch of government.

    • #1
    • December 28, 2017, at 1:00 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. WinterMute Coolidge

    Great write-up, and a useful article from the NYT. Providing a concrete example like the orchard makes obvious the frankly ridiculous costs of over-regulation that are often hard for ordinary consumers to grasp. Thanks for sharing.

    • #2
    • December 28, 2017, at 1:18 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    In 1971 I was teaching Special Education in Seattle Public Schools. At that time Seattle was considered to have the best Special Education services in the country. The program had been begun by Roy Howard, who hired me in 1969. Roy had six administrators who he directly supervised. Each of those administrators was responsible for one area of special education services, Mentally Handicapped, Emotionally Disturbed (the area I worked in), Visually Impaired, Hearing Impaired/Speech and Language, Orthopedically Handicapped, and Home and Hospital Instruction. Everyone else in the department was a teacher or a teacher’s aide with the exception of consultants, mainly psychiatrists who came to the classrooms and worked directly with the teachers. It was a fabulous department to work for, and we did an excellent job of serving our population.

    Then Roy Howard retired. His replacement was the former administrator for my area of specialization. She was no Roy Howard, but, given the system that Roy had put in place, she might still have been successful, however, that was the first year that the Department of Education mandated the development of Individual Education Programs (IEPs).

    The first IEP was a single paged document which established a minimum of one Goal and two objective to be met, not a particularly hard thing to do if, like me, you were heavily into Behavior Modification strategies. Only, it didn’t stop there. With the regularity of clockwork new requirements were added in terms of documentation, required signatures, notice of meetings, specific people who needed to be present at the meetings, where and when meetings could be held, timelines in terms of how long a student could be served before an IEP needed to be written and signed off on.

    That was only at my level. On the administrative level an entire superstructure of newly minted administrators needed to be hired. Most of them were people who had gotten their Masters degrees in Special Education but never spent a day in a classroom as a teacher. Their jobs were involved more with helping teachers write IEPs that would pass an audit when federal regulator came to town.

    By the time I retired from Seattle Public Schools the Special Education Department had more administrators than there had been teachers when I started in the department. From talking to fellow teachers at annual IEP training sessions which were necessary to introduce us to the latest regulations, I had the impression that our results, in terms of effectively serving our population, were far below where they had been in 1971. No one felt particularly respected or professional. We had become, to a large extent, document producers whose results reminded me of the process I used when taking Genetics in college and was breeding fruit flies. The expectation was that we would get a phenotype ratio of 9:3:3:1. When that didn’t happen we did the only thing we could, fudge the results. IEPs yielded the same results. Overregulation does that.

    • #3
    • December 28, 2017, at 1:47 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    I should add that Special Education has become a money pig. Millions of dollars are sunk into it. Principals milk Special Education funds to bolster their own overdrawn budgets.

    Does this benefit our student? In my opinion, not a whit! It does, however, keep a vast federal bureaucracy in milk and honey, the Department of Education, a department this country did without for nearly 200 years, and could well do without for the next 200 years.

    • #4
    • December 28, 2017, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq Contributor

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    By the time I retired from Seattle Public Schools the Special Education Department had more administrators than there had been teachers when I started in the department

    You should write this up copy and paste it as its own post

    • #5
    • December 28, 2017, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Seawriter Member

    Admittedly this inspection cost this family business a lot of time that they could have spent, you know, actually running their business. But you have to understand this was Time Well Spent. It kept these regulators and inspectors busy. That meant they were justifying their existence.

    Why they got so much data from the inspection they probably could not process it all. They had to go and ask for money to hire more analysts. That meant their department grew, the manager gained prestige, and a whole lot of folks with useless degrees got well-paying and 100% secure government jobs. Even if the result of the inspection is never used, it achieved the critical function of employing bureaucrats and expanding the size of government.

    Yes, productivity suffered on the part of the business, but so what? What’s more important? The health of the American economy or keeping bureaucrats employed? All of those inspectors and analysts know what their priority is. If this business goes under there will be another sucker to inspect, and keep bureaucrats working. Their bankruptcy is the price you have to pay so that government workers wax fat. So all you proles get in line and know your place.

    Seawriter

    • #6
    • December 28, 2017, at 2:33 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. George Townsend Member

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    I should add that Special Education has become a money pig. Millions of dollars are sunk into it. Principals milk Special Education funds to bolster their own overdrawn budgets.

    Does this benefit our student? In my opinion, not a whit! It does, however, keep a vast federal bureaucracy in milk and honey, the Department of Education, a department this country did without for nearly 200 years, and could well do without for the next 200 years.

    Thank you, Eugene, for sharing this story.

    I became a conservative because I realized, in my 20s, after reading and thinking about all this, that liberalism was helping no one. And that the only way to truly help people is to get involved with them on as close a level as you could possibly get. That is what you tried to do, and should be applauded for.

    As one who was diagnosed with a mild case of Cerebral Palsy at the tender age of one, I know this approach is the only one that really works. People like Bernie Sanders, and his followers, are so intent on following a dream that they fail to understand this dream very quickly turns into a nightmare, and the only beneficiaries are the Sanders of this world, who can go on patting themselves on the back, for “helping” people.

    • #7
    • December 28, 2017, at 2:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. George Townsend Member

    I should say a thanks to Mona, also, for bringing this story to our attention!

    • #8
    • December 28, 2017, at 2:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. BalticSnowTiger Inactive

    Appreciated. Splendid, but why would you pay to read the NYT and feed the beast?

    To the extent that I was able to follow in excess of 800 pieces, items, addenda, both existing and still pending from past leninist-obamaeqsque excess, of regulations have been rescinded, revoked, revised, terminated, sun-set or left to expire. The administrative state, evil incarnate, is being fought, to an extent successfully, finally.

    This cannot only done with a scalpel. No surgical strikes there, not even by a presidential pen. Massive bombardment required. The restrictive, constraining, asphyxiating, freedom abrogating excuse for inferior quality chaps getting a hold onto you and a permanent squeeze for themselves must go. Romney could not, McCain suspended a flailing campaign, the Bushes would not, but it has to go. So the flawed character you simply do not like for reasons one may even share does it. You did not have the political clout, not of the people you ever supported had and did. The Leninists got their boon for eight disastrously long years. You evidently dreaded that. Whilst I am often on your side when it comes to decency, sober analysis, courtesy and decent behaviour, this is not the time for it. Freedom has to be fought for, won and ripped away from the widespread evil of NewSpeak, Civilisational Demise, and Wilful Leftist Destruction. You don’t like the flawed guy who as a catalyst may make it happen, so what. I doubt you would have appreciated Patton either. Further, would you have made the decision to hit Japan twice to avoid having the hundreds of thousands of purple hearts already ordered and made having to be spent?

    Revert to Coolidge. Do little, let dire twigs and branches die, stop answering questions and allowing miscreants to dictate ordinary people, get work done, reduce taxes further, cut entitlements massively, and, yes, send a Mattis like character into the various law enforcement and intelligence services to sort them out.

    Gosh, rant over. Now, let’s have a cup of tea. Still agree with you. It needs to be done.

    P.S.: I tend to think that they are ‘klutzes’ and if we were to wish to stretch this into modernity one could describe the leninist oligarchy at hand as ‘klutzish’ in their behaviour. Have a word with Jay what he garnered from his trips to Estonia, like in Romania the then Soviet-style elite in essence in all their evil overlordism still was klutzish.

    • #9
    • December 28, 2017, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. gnarlydad Inactive

    He called it “kludgeocracy.”

    Would a kludgeocracy be managed by kludgeniks or kludgenistas? And shouldn’t their countless minions be guilty of kludgenasty? Gotta say, I’m likin’ this new word. Words have power.

    • #10
    • December 28, 2017, at 4:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Doctor Robert Member

    You,have to wonder which politician the orchard owners had offended in order to have all those inspectors descend on them at once, during their busiest time.

    • #11
    • December 28, 2017, at 5:32 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  12. Hank Rhody-Badenphipps Esq Contributor

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    You,have to wonder which politician the orchard owners had offended in order to have all those inspectors descend on them at once, during their busiest time.

    Possible, but I think you ascribe too much caring to the bureaucrats.

    • #12
    • December 28, 2017, at 11:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Paul Erickson Member

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    You,have to wonder which politician the orchard owners had offended in order to have all those inspectors descend on them at once, during their busiest time.

    It all started when Eve took that first bite of the apple . . .

    • #13
    • December 29, 2017, at 5:11 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Seawriter Member

    Paul Erickson (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    You,have to wonder which politician the orchard owners had offended in order to have all those inspectors descend on them at once, during their busiest time.

    It all started when Eve took that first bite of the apple . . .

    Talk about going straight to first principles. (Or in this case, it might better be first principals.)

    Seawriter

    • #14
    • December 29, 2017, at 5:26 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. James Gawron Thatcher

    Mona,

    Halleluyah! Finally, a tiny glimmer of light. A very long time ago I renamed a form of over-regulation as hyper-regulation. Over-regulation implies some orderly process that is logical but over the top a little. Efficiency is blown but somehow we at least can recognize the good intention. Hyper-regulation is a psychotic desire to control until complete destruction. There is nothing rational about it. Nobody is watching what the regulators do. The regulated are non-persons with no recourse.

    I recently coined a new phrase. The power to regulate is the power to destroy. Over-regulation requires a nice statistical study to prove the inefficiencies involved. Hyper-regulation requires a Kafka short story to give people the idea.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #15
    • December 29, 2017, at 7:18 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Autistic License Member

    I’d like to recommend Williamson’s article on Masterpiece Bakeshop on NRO, as a good analysis of the etiology of this debilitating illness. Even before the Republic began, statists were finding ways to construe a legal theory of the government having a role in everything. Is there a way to impose a stricter burden of proof, a stronger default assumption that the individual owns their life and property and only a demonstrable claim of ownership by someone else (some other individual) can dispute that initial claim?

    • #16
    • December 29, 2017, at 7:32 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. cirby Member

    The sad part is how, when you point out any reduction of regulations, the first thing your average leftist comes up with is:

    “So you want MORE POLLUTION? I want my water and air clean! Safe workplaces! Fair labor laws”

    When you try to suggest that not all – or even many – of the regulations that are imposed on us do any good, and often do bad things, they just stare at you like you’re crazy.

    • #17
    • December 29, 2017, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Dr. Bastiat Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    The power to regulate is the power to destroy.

    I believe that, in many cases, the purpose of regulation is to destroy. For example:

    Someone in government doesn’t like something (usually, that something involves someone, somewhere being happier our more successful than said government worker). The government worker either does not have the clout to simply arrest or destroy that person or industry. Or s/he doesn’t have the stomach for open confrontation. Or s/he doesn’t have the guts to take decisive action. Whatever.

    So, the said government worker just discreetly writes a memo to some other government worker that perhaps this situation would benefit from the supervision of someone as wise as, say, government workers.

    Thus, the disliked person or industry is discreetly destroyed, and no one got their hands dirty. So much nicer than fascism. The government worker can even sleep at night because, hey, it was just a memo, right?

    I hope this is rare.

    I don’t think it is. In fact, I think this is standard operating procedure.

    Bernie Sanders: “Government is just the word we use to describe those things that we do together.”

    Right.

    • #18
    • December 29, 2017, at 3:13 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Mole-eye Member

    And we’re still 7th best? What hells 8 to Somalia must be!

    • #19
    • December 30, 2017, at 4:54 AM PDT
    • Like