Friday, November 18, 2016

Laws and regulations suck (no they don't) (11/18/2016)

It should not be a surprise that as a teacher of regulations it helps me to spend time out in the field to see how regulations that I teach are interpreted, implemented, and enforced.  So last Monday I spend a day with an inspector in a locality that will remain unnamed looking at construction sites in town to look at what the builders do to comply with our regulations.

Inspector Jan
I came away from a day in the field amazed by the huge difference I saw between individual projects.  Be assured the inspector was great and the town I was inspecting in was really good too; I had issues with the builders/contractors.  In one project the foreman was cooperative, friendly and wanted to work with us, while in the other project we were definitively his adversary and he just looked at us from a distance with angry face.  Later on I learned that our angry player treated others the same way; he does not cooperate and you need to threaten him with shutting down his project, before he grudgingly cooperates. His project looked horrible and was littered with violations.  When we visited they had just torn out some concrete because it had not been pored correctly, even there he had done a shitty job. 

This is supposed to keep the sediment in the next time it rains (and it was supposed to rain the evening after we visited).
It is amazing the difference between these individuals.  Some are so against the government telling them what to do, and they fight it all the way.  The result is that they have to comply anyway, but all the fighting will cost them project time and most likely money.  For one, time is money, but all the after the fact clean up, the slowing down of the project because they have to correct or repair things, and so on, will all cost them money.  It is all so short sighted, but they are all standing on their principle!  In a previous post I wrote about catching flies with honey, this guy just acted like an asshole, and that attracts attention too, but not the long-term attention he would like.  He will have a reputation with inspectors for the rest of his career.  He will have cost overruns and it will never be his fault; always those damn regulators; it will always be the government's fault, those laws and regulations.  

So why do people hate regulations?  If you believe in the Bible, it was Adam and Eve who were the first people that did not believe in the regulations that God put in front of them and gosh darn it, they took a bite from the apple.  This famous bite still reverberates all over and we are living with the consequences.  But from what I see some people have been against laws and regulations throughout history.  Revolutions have been fought over this problem.  I am no philosopher, but I think a lot of people feel that they are put in place to control them.  Wake up call, the laws and regulations have no one specific in mind.  But without them society would probably be chaotic, there would be no traffic rules, there would be pollution everywhere, there would be no one checking who was bringing what on to airplanes, you name it.  As you can see I can give plenty of examples of laws and regulations that are essential to our safety, our life and health. 

Image result for adam and eve
Ruben's depiction of Adam and Eve's temptation (this picture is hanging in the Prado Museum in Madrid)
In our current political climate you hear conservative saying that we need to get rid of regulations; and that is what that one foreman’s behavior essentially was pointing at.  He did not care about environmental regulations and you had to force him to comply.  But these conservatives are the first in line to pass stricter and heavier regulations on the use of marijuana, on abortion rights, on euthanasia, or the death penalty. 

So now you say: "I hate bad laws and regulations, but I like good ones."  But who is the judge?  It all depends on who we listen to.  It is often said that if a lie is repeated often enough we will start believing it is true.  So it is the political pundits that we listen to on the radio, on TV, on the internet and maybe even in those books that we read; they will eventually convince us what laws and regulations are good or bad for us. 

Brooke Berger wrote an interesting article in U.S. News and world Report in 2013 entitled: “Yes, Regulation Can Make Government Better.”  Regulations often fail because they are so complicated.  People don’t understand them or the reason behind them.  In my teaching, I have been a huge proponent of explaining why we have certain regulations and I still find resistance.  “Just teach the law and tell them to follow it,” I am told.  To me this makes it: us the educated elite versus the non-educated masses, much like what we have seen in the recent election.  Simplification and explanation of the intent of the laws and regulations should not be a partisan thing; I believe that you get better buy-in when people understand how things affect their life and wellbeing.  However, repeated lies and biased interpretations are not constructive; they pin us against each other and don't help society grow.

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