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Breaking the Vicious Circle: Toward…

Breaking the Vicious Circle: Toward Effective Risk Regulation

by Stephen Breyer

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291584,177 (3.63)1
Breaking the Vicious Circle is a tour de force that should be read by everyone who is interested in improving our regulatory processes. Written by a highly respected federal judge, who would go on to serve on the Supreme Court, and who obviously recognizes the necessity of regulation but perceives its failures and weaknesses as well, it pinpoints the most serious problems and offers a creative solution that would for the first time bring rationality to bear on the vital issue of priorities in our era of limited resources.… (more)



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For a book written by a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice, this is less than insightful. In the book, Breyer tackles the problem of overregulation, mostly in the area of environmental safety. Many of the then current environmental regulations were written and implemented in such a manner as to require large amounts of effort and expense, usually for limited gain. In one of the more effective images of the book, Breyer uses the scale of "how many days children could safely eat dirt from this site" - usually the EPA required clean-up cited would stretch the figure from say, 45 days of safely eating dirt, to 110 days of safely eating dirt.

While Breyer identifies the problem of overregulation (or, more frequently, pointless regulation that allows children to eat dirt for months on end), he then stumbles. What is his prescription for controlling overregulation and ensuring that the regulations implemented actually make things safer and cleaner? Why, more regulation, of course! He proposes a kind of "super-regulator" that would regulate the regulatory agencies. It is accepted as a given that adding a new layer of regulation will improve the situation. Why this would be true is never explained - that it would just make the mess worse is apparently not even considered.

As I said before, for a book written by a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice, it is a flimsy piece of work, and probably should simply be avoided. ( )
  StormRaven | Oct 15, 2008 |
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