Actually Enforcing The Laws: A New Approach

Posted by | December 10, 2010 18:56 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

It would seem that the idea that the government enforcing the law would be a relatively uncontroversial provision.  However for eight years (guess which eight), federal regulations were enforced in a very lax manner and voluntary compliance was the key buzz word.  A new report examines the Obama Administration’s progress in reversing this trend:

Rick Melberth, Director of Regulatory Policy at OMB Watch, said, “As we saw in the cases of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill that befouled the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, the absence of effective enforcement, sometimes entrenched after decades of negligence, can allow avoidable disasters to strike.” Melberth said the report shows the Obama administration seems to understand that fact and has made good progress but added that agencies still have a lot of work to do on the enforcement front.

When laws are broken, whether they are criminal laws or regulatory laws, the perpetrators (after due process, of course) should be punished.  For the past decade we have let corporate lawbreakers off the hook by not enforcing the law (fewer inspections and slaps on the wrist when violations are found).  Reversing eight years of slack enforcement is not easy but it is comforting that  early indications are that Obama officials are making progress.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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