Efficiency in regulations

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Creating the means is the scope of science and technology

By John Bartlit

A lack of sturdy regulation is a large, worsening problem for the nation’s economy in all its aspects. Today’s essay outlines sorely needed advances of large scope. Ensuing columns will amplify key features. Judge the whole.
Dept. of Regulatory Science & Technology Tools move us faster than slogans. A painting can show new ways of seeing things, unless we stand too near it. It works the same with regulation.
Camps of competing interests exchange infamies over the need for regulation. Industry decries the strictness of regulations. Camps berate the enforcement of regulations.  
The efficiency of regulation gets the least attention, yet is vital to the most interests.
Witness the multitude of losers from the BP oil spill. Losses from the Japanese nuclear plants spread unexpectedly far in the economy.
Fiscal losses circled the globe from shaggy banking, lending and housing practices.
Frequent news of large-scale losses pleads for regulation to be more creative.
It is high time for new ways of seeing things.
Every year the need for regulation grows stronger. The reasons are many: a world economy, global trade, rising industrial output, rapid change, growing population and the limits of resources.
At the same time, the obstacles to regulation grow stronger. The reasons are many: a world economy, global trade, rising industrial output, rapid change, growing population and the limits of resources.
Industry answers with new ways to boost productivity.
The efficiency of regulation has not kept pace. Nor has it tried. Politics gets all the focus.
No kind of remedy is found in cries to “work faster” or “vote to stop the curse.” Any real answer calls for a new field of science and engineering.
Top technical schools need to start a Department of Regulatory Science and Technology. Or the new field could be a speciality within an existing department.  
Freshmen studies would begin with Regulation 101: Legal, Technical, and Human Elements and Regulation in a Connected World. Course work would include Basics of Efficient Work Systems.
Second-year courses would teach Applications of Automated Data and Data in the Public Forum.
Upper-level students might sign up for Analysis of Regulatory Models and Integration of Cost Factors.
Research is basic to advancement. Professors and grad students would pursue research and development of better tools for regulation. “Better” means more capable, easier and faster.       
For example, imagine an instrument that is held beside a cow to report and record the safety of its meat and milk. Now imagine an energy beam that records and reports traits of air emissions from an exhaust stack. Or traits of a cargo of produce.     
Imagine an automated real-time report on the state of risks in a nuclear plant or a bank.   
Most of us can’t imagine such things. But then most of us can’t devise a meter that is held beside an air traveler to detect and report a spectrum of trace chemicals used in bomb-making. The meter exists. Imagine that.
Most of us can’t devise chips to build into a bridge that measure and report the changing strength of the materials. Such chips exist.
Most of us can’t devise computer software that searches in company documents for adverse information in a court trial. This too exists.    
Regulatory tools do not need utmost accuracy. They need to be reliable and efficient in use. New tools might monitor a threshold value or report a change of a certain size.
Our schools train petroleum engineers and environmental engineers, but not regulatory engineers. Regulation is concerned with risks and losses in all sectors.        
Oil companies donate to schools that are strong in petroleum science and engineering. Who would give scholarships for regulatory engineers?
The first ones to step up might be companies that profit from the tools of efficient regulation.
     Then we have companies who see innovation as a boon, not a threat. Some realize swift, evenhanded regulation is in their best interest, but the tools need improving. Agile banks and food companies could use better tools on their own behalf.  
Where leading lights of business lead, others will follow. National labs also have ways of seeing things that can lead to better tools.  
The health of the environment, people, business, our food and the economy depends on making regulation more efficient. Political slogans suggest no ideas to do it.
Creating the means is the scope of regulatory science and technology.

New Mexico Citizens
for Clean Air & Water