The Strategy of Social Regulation: Decision Frameworks for Policy

The Strategy of Social Regulation: Decision Frameworks for Policy

The Strategy of Social Regulation: Decision Frameworks for Policy

The Strategy of Social Regulation: Decision Frameworks for Policy

Excerpt

In 1978 the author of this book was asked to assist President Carter's economic and science advisers in formulating proposals for further amending the Federal Food and Drug Act of 1906 so as to deal with difficult issues in the regulation of saccharin and sodium nitrite. In the past decade Congress, seeming to prefer ad hoc solutions to such problems, tended to pass special legislation whenever an executive agency promulgated regulations that appeared to be against the public interest. For example, in 1977 Congress prevented the Food and Drug Administration from banning saccharin for eighteen months while the National Academy of Sciences studied the issue. After the eighteen-month period elapsed without any clear recommendation from the Academy, Congress was presented with an apparently irreconcilable conflict in balancing public desire for a nonnutritive sweetener against the risk of unnecessary exposure to carcinogens. A White House interagency working group devoted to assessing the health dangers of food additives was unable to come up with a solution that would satisfy the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and hence systematic reform was put aside.

The generic issue exemplified by the saccharin episode is whether the costs, risks, and benefits of proposed food regulations--and of health and safety regulations generally--can be estimated with enough accuracy and reliability to become an important basis for regulatory decisionmaking. The costs and benefits of economic regulation can doubtless be estimated, although the estimates vary greatly with differing but equally realistic assumptions. Moreover, because health and safety regulations are fraught with uncertainty and emotion, systematic quantitative analysis will not necessarily improve the quality of regulatory decisions.

This book is an examination of the contribution that quantitative analysis has made and can make to regulatory decisions concerning health and safety. In arguing that careful analysis can enlighten regulatory decisions, the author also shows that Congress has written into various . . .

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