Another Private-Public Contrast

This article on the FDA's propose to regulate medical-related iPhone apps got me thinking.   These bureaucrats are really like marketers in a company.  They are constantly coming up with growth ideas, though in the case of regulators it is ideas to growth the size and scope of their power, rather than sales, but the thought process is probably about the same.

Most new product ideas that come out of these brainstorming sessions in the private industry are a failure - they die in the conference room, or later in funding, or maybe later in the marketplace.  A few survive.  But at the end of the day, what matters is not how much the person who came up with the idea wants it to happen, it is whether the idea proves to be of value to the public.

Unfortunately, there is no such check on the regulatory sphere.  They come up with an idea to expand power, and they just run with it and make it happen.  In fact, general public opposition is generally interpreted by these folks as proof of concept - ie if people are against the new regulations, they must REALLY be necessary.

We would be better off if regulatory ideas were adopted at roughly the same rate that new products ideas are successful.


  1. dullgeek:

    It'd also be useful if there were a natural way to end failed regulatory ideas like the natural way that failed private industry ideas end (e.g. they're not profitable). If such a thing existed then regulation wouldn't be so onerous. Ideas could be tried, tested and only the good ones would remain.

    Sadly the entire purpose of regulation and laws is to override this evolutionary process with fiat. Put another way, the experimentation that Tim Harford so beautifully describes in his book, is not only not endemic to politics. Politics opposes it.

  2. Ted Rado:

    There is no force acting on the USG to be efficient. The less efficient, the more people in your department and the higher your rating. The same thing in private enterprise would get you fired. We need to think up a new way to organize USG to reward frugal management.

    At the elected official level, there is another problem. The more money you spend on giveaway programs, the more votes you get. (Sen. Grassley and ethanol).

    A USG reorganization to avoid these pitfalls is way overdue.

  3. Henry Bowman:

    There is only one way to tame the regulatory beast that the Federal government has become. And, that way is to turn off the money. Given the dire fiscal straits of the country, the regulatory state may become self-regulating (or, another view, suicidal).

  4. Craig:

    As long as a regulatory agency exists -- no matter what its responsibility -- the sole goal of its employees will be to prove their worth and regulate our asses off in their particular area of specialization. They can, perhaps, be reined in by cutting their budgets. Eliminating them, though, is the only real solution.