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Regulating shows lack of R&D

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By John Bartlit

Research and development (R&D) is the good genie that improves every technical tool important to society and business.
Few tools have more troubling defects than the tools of regulating. We know so by the heated reactions they spark in every interest group.
Why then is R&D used so little to improve these tools? Our lack of R&D ignores the lush fields of opportunity for improving regulatory tools.
R&D projects can be mapped to show where they fit with the four distinct steps in the regulatory process, namely, (1) rule-making, (2) permitting, (3) inspection and (4) enforcement.
Politics and publicity focus on rule-making, which also involves science and engineering. Yet, most of the day-to-day work is in implementation — permitting and inspecting. Here is where many tasks could be done better, faster and cheaper if aided by 21st century technology. Indeed, this is the founding vision of R&D.
In broad terms, environmental voices are not fond of swift permitting. By the same token, industrial voices are not fond of swift inspection and enforcement.
Over time, each side tweaks certain parts to make them clumsy. Both sides conclude that a clumsy part is a fair reason to add more unwieldy parts. Both sides and all taxpayers suffer the cost of this contest.


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