Regulations are not enough – you have to enforce them
Friday, May 14, 2010
Two stories have bubbled up that illustrate why government regulation alone isn’t enough to protect the public from unscrupulous — and dangerous — business practices. It takes the courts, and the threat of real and proportionate penalties, to keep these folks honest, because as we’ve seen time and time again, corporations, money and politics are a rich recipe for chicanery.
On Thursday the folks over at Safety Research and Strategies took note of the minutiae of safety reporting by Toyota and found a rather telling breakdown in the system. The automaker was able to skirt reporting requirements primarily because of a lack of oversight that would have caught a mistake — or lie, the jury is still out — in how it reports information on product problems. Trot on over to SRS’s blog for the full details. Then this morning the New York Times has a chilling piece on how federal regulators short-circuited their own system to give drillers permission to drill on the Gulf of Mexico, doing end runs around environmental regulators. From the Times’ story:
The Minerals Management Service, or M.M.S., also routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of certain drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska, according to a half-dozen current and former agency scientists. Those scientists said they were also regularly pressured by agency officials to change the findings of their internal studies if they predicted that an accident was likely to occur or if wildlife might be harmed.
What good are regulators if they don’t, in fact, regulate?