Politics Intersecting with Regulation

  1. Utility regulation's original purpose was to protect the consumer from abuse and inefficiency.  But consumers have tended to demand that regulation protect them from risk—including risks caused by their own behavior.  What can regulation do to correct this trend?
  2. The externalities of consumption and production are having global and possibly irreversible effects.  At the same time, the public is showing less willingness to accept limits on what it considers its freedoms to consume and produce.  What role can and should regulation play in bridging this gap?
  3. For competition to work, consumers must have more patience and more sophistication.  Politics seems to move in the opposite direction, seeking to make things easier and less complicated for consumers.  Witness things like "Tennis in Ten Easy Steps" or "Yoga for Dummies."  What happened to "Mastering the Art of French Cooking?"  What role can and should regulation play, in resolving this tension between making things easier for consumers vs. inducing customers to grow in the sophistication necessary for competition to work well?
  4. Why not more mandates and fewer inducements?  If conventional light bulbs and inefficient refrigerators are wasteful, isn't it less expensive to ban the wrong things than to bribe people to do the right thing?
  5. How do we give "regulation" the public respect it deserves?  Medicine, science, and engineering all have public respect.  What is it about regulation that draws so much political fire, making it difficult to gain the professional respect it needs and deserves?

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