The following is a repost from a piece authored by Center for Truth in Science board member Dr. Richard Williams. Click here to read the full article in its original location.

What do you do when you run out of synonyms for “horrible?” It’s simple, you must change course for something that demands synonyms for “wonderful.” Perhaps you have an elected official that has garnered every single synonym for horrible until you’ve used up all of the 60 or so synonyms. We have to keep writing about our politicians so it will be time to elect a new one that is wonderful and that opens to door to lots more synonyms. 

Even if we choose to characterize elected officials that way, we shouldn’t do it for regulations, particularly as a class. Individual regulations may be horrible or wonderful and parts of regulations can be either. 

The principle that we have tried to hold regulations to for 50 years is whether they, or their parts, have benefits (i.e., they accomplish things that citizens want) that exceed their costs.

President Biden issued a memorandum on January 20, 2021 that looks to regulatory agencies to “promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.” These may all be useful things to pursue but how do we know whether or not individual regulations are accomplishing them and whether they are worth the expenditures? 

In my old regulatory agency, the FDA, one of our center directors had a chart outside of his office that listed our “accomplishments.” The banner listed the number and size of the regulations that we proposed and finalized. In each regulation and accompanying economic impact statements, we said what each was intended to accomplish, but we never went back to check on them. In fact, agencies almost never go back to see if they accomplished what they intended to do.  

What’s worse, no one ever asks – not Congress nor the press, nor succeeding presidents. We try and project what they will do beforehand, in Latin, ex ante. But these are educated projections, in fact, some people feel they are little more than guesses. In reality, the best analyses acknowledge what they don’t know, the uncertainties in their projections, and that makes them far better than guesses. But if we never go back and check, it’s not likely we’re going to get a lot better at projections or, in fact, regulations. 

With TiC (a government acronym for ‘tongue in cheek’ that I just made up), I say regulations are too important to treat them like elected officials. Let’s treat each one individually and, every once in a while, see which ones, and even which parts, worked and which ones didn’t.