[[Conor Friedersdorf]] interview with [[Tyler Cowen]] discussing failures of [[the regulatory state]], particularly in the context of [[COVID-19]]. They discuss what has gone wrong and some potential solutions.
“[[Our regulatory state is failing us]],” he has repeatedly warned on his blog, [[Marginal Revolution]]
He fleshed out his concerns and desired reforms in an interview conducted over email.
As for the South Korean government, once the coronavirus arrived in their country, the government sat down with the private sector, figured out what needed to be done, and started doing it right away, including very aggressive procurement of PPE and testing. I think there are at least three differences that partly account for this difference in response. First, the South Korean state has very recent experience building lots of quality infrastructure. Second, SARS was a very real risk in South Korea, which boosted their readiness and also response capabilities. Third, South Koreans are used to the idea of [[existential risk]], given their history and neighbors, and they do not regard themselves as invulnerable. #[[South Korea]]
I do not view the administrative state as extra-constitutional. That said, it has become far too inflexible, and not sufficiently focused on [[outcomes]] #[[state capacity]]
Friedersdorf: If you could change one thing about the culture of America’s [[Bureaucracy]], what would it be?
Cowen: [[regulation]] should be more goal-oriented, and less prescriptive in terms of the details. It should be easier to exercise judgment to meet particular worthy ends, rather than being hamstrung by restrictions and details. Regulation should recognize that emergency situations will come along when very fast action will be needed. Our current regulatory state is not built around those ideas, and its culture is accordingly complacent, and compliance- and process-oriented rather than success-oriented. These days, the American public sector just isn’t very good at getting things done.
Cowen: So much needs to be done. First, we need far more data on the scope of regulation, what it does and doesn’t do, and its costs.
Cowen: [[Statnews.com]] is a very good source for covering [[the regulatory state]] during [[COVID-19]].
Friedersdorf: [[Libertarians]] and small-government [[conservatives]] are highly skeptical of [[the regulatory state]]. What do they get wrong?
Cowen: Very often, the alternative to [[regulation]] is ex post facto reliance on the courts and juries to redress wrongs. Of course, the judiciary and its components are further instruments of governments, and they have their own flaws. There is no particular reason, from, say, a [[libertarian]] point of view, to expect such miracles from the courts. Very often, I would rather take my chances with the [[regulators]].
Also, let’s not forget the cases where the regulators are flat-out right. Take herbal medicines, penis enlargers, or [[vaccines]]. In those cases, the [[regulators]] are essentially correct, and there is a substantial segment of the population that is flat-out wrong on those issues, and sometimes they are wrong in dangerous ways.