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Policy Proposal: Feedback Loops Edition
September 1, 2011 Politics

Here’s a short but sweet one. Can we pass and enforce legislation that requires every piece of legislation to state clearly how long it is supposed to last, what its objectives are, what guidelines will be used for measuring whether these objectives have been met, and criteria for penalizing stakeholders when or if the program fails?

For example, just think of the millions of dollars of subsidies that have been showered upon solar energy companies (with three newsworthy disasters in just the past week, as Evergreen Solar declares bankruptcy, and solar promotion programs in Tennessee and Oregon go belly up too). The point of the subsidies, to some degree, is to get the solar industry off the ground until some point at which it could become self-sufficient and economically produce electricity itself.

Have you ever seen anyone demand that we know just what this timetable should be? Or how much in subsidies should be permitted before deeming a project a success or failure? Seriously. These programs failed miserably in just a short period of time. Should we find ways to fund them for another decade? What if they never become independently viable? Maybe the point is that they are not supposed to be, after all, aren’t people relishing the idea of a nice, cozy, stable relationship between business, labor and government?

Think of the myriad programs intended to reduce poverty, increase home-ownership rates, promote job growth, etc. Have ANY of them ever had any serious targets or accountability attached to them? Sunset provisions only come rarely with them too. Maybe I shouldn’t even propose this, after all, I said that one of the rules for my proposal was that people of all stripes had to find them to be reasonable, with no apparent bias left or right. I didn’t think this tilted in any particular political direction – unless the point of politics is for it to be unaccountable. And please do not shower me with the sorry canard of “that’s why we have elections.” ┬áIf we want to dance that dance, we can have a “fun” time blogging responses for a while.

"1" Comment
  1. The only laws that are sun-setted are the tax cuts, Wintercow.

    When I was a supervisor, we’d routinely update and amend our zoning and land development ordinances. For a short while, we’d take a microscopic or even proctologic approach to our deliberations, but then at some point someone would say, “Look, we’ve been working on this for months and the planning commission has recommended we adopt the ordinance just to get it off the table. I know some of the changes are arbitrary, but we have to get this done.” Next meeting we’d pass it, and suddenly the ordinance would be regarded as the equivalent of Moses’ stone tablets. “Thou shalt not erect a sign higher than twelve feet.” “Did we say, ‘thou shalt not’?”

    As we occupy our time here on the internet, EPA is pushing ahead with tens of thousands of pages of new regulations designed to throttle the running dogs of capitalism. Those regulations, once codified in the Federal Register, will be very hard to reverse. “Thou shalt not allow stormwater runoff to flow onto thy neighbor’s property, or onto the property of thy neighbor’s neighbor, or onto the property of thy neighbor’s wife, or thy neighbor’s manservants’ or maidservants’ property or anything that is thy neighbor’s.”

    Go down, Moses, and tell old Pharoah to stop it.

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