Guest Post: Is procedural liberalism holding back progress?
Minivet writes: Puts together many pieces we've discussed.
Posited: that the liberal view of public administration has curdled into a fundamentally negative one, where the only good agency is one hemmed in with a million rules, and the resulting system also leads to dominance by the wealthy and connected in a subtler way. I don't know how we build something better given all our veto points, but it may be a sine qua non to having a government people trust to do the needful things.
I wonder what would happen if a president came into office pledging to make their appointees no more than 25% lawyers at each agency.
Heebie's take: Minivet's last line really needs to be taken in context of the argument put forth by the linked essay.
The whole thing reminded me a bit of the subtraction bias, that "Humans solve problems by adding complexity, even when it's against our best interests."
Here's some other parts I found good:
Lindsey and Teles canvass four areas in which government action is hard to square with the public interest: Congress's reckless support for excessive risk-taking at financial institutions; the never-ending expansion of copyright and patent protections; homeowners' squelching of new development in cities across the country; and the grotesque excesses of occupational licensure. More could be added to the list: the tax-preparer industry's opposition to the simplification of tax filing; hospitals' ability to maintain grossly excessive Medicare payments for cancer drugs; and massive federal subsidies for unproductive farms, dairies, and ranches.
[I]t is simply wrong to assume that more procedures will discourage capture because those procedures aim to foster deliberation, transparency, and rationality. The reverse will usually be true. Exploiting a procedural opportunity takes time, attention, and resources. The same interest groups that are the villains of the capture narrative can deploy their relative organizational advantages to pull procedural levers with more frequency and greater expertise than groups representing the public interest. Under common conditions, the proliferation of procedural opportunities will magnify the ability of well-organized groups to influence agency decisions, not the reverse.
Under the cut, I put the last three paragraphs of the article, where the author points towards solutions.
Instead of defending procedures at a high level of abstraction (legitimacy! accountability!), we need to take a more granular look at the effects that legally imposed procedures have on the task of governance. Minimalism should be the watchword. New procedures should be greeted with suspicion and old procedures should be revisited, with an eye to cutting them back or eliminating them. Some will be worth retaining: No one wants a latter-day Robert Moses bulldozing neighborhoods with impunity. It's reasonable, for example, to require agencies to offer reasons for major actions. History and international experience suggest the need for rules protecting the civil service. And some targeted judicial review is appropriate to prevent agencies from flouting legal constraints. Beyond that, however, we should be cautious. Administrative law could achieve more by doing less.
We also need to revive a strain of thinking that connects the legitimacy of the administrative state to its ability to satisfy public aspirations. That means building up our agencies, not devising ever-more elaborate means of tying them down. Antiquated rules that make it hard to hire and retain qualified personnel should be scrapped. Legislatures need to appropriate the funds to expand an overstretched bureaucracy and to pay for top talent, much as some independent agencies can already do. Fewer tasks should be outsourced to poorly supervised contractors; more functions should be brought in-house. And we must make large investments in the information technology that forms the backbone of competent governance.
These aren't tasks for lawyers, with their fetish for procedural rules. They are tasks for legislators, managers, and policy experts. They are the ones who will drive real regulatory reform and -- perhaps -- build the government institutions that will allow us to cope with the challenges of the 21st century. The lawyers need to get out of the way.
Has anyone here lived somewhere where they had to use a spiral staircase regularly? Or some sort of tiny/narrow staircase with a smaller footprint? We have a ladder to a little loft area right now. It'd be nice to use it as an occasional sleeping area, but I personally find it a little off-putting to climb up a ladder, and I certainly wouldn't want to send my mother-in-law up there. The kids seem to avoid it, even though it's set up for them to play or read up there.
I'm trying to think about how to make it feel more integrated into the living space. Clearly staircases and spiral staircases that are too narrow/steep are also uninviting. But maybe not as bad as a ladder?
Confidential to JRoth: what, I gotta feed the blog, right? Of course I'm asking you.
It's a little wild how much it seems like closed captioning has quickly become the norm (for hearing people). By which I mean that I see silly memes about people wondering how we ever followed what was going on on TV shows before it was widely adopted (by hearing people). When E. Messily lived with us in 2015-16, it was decidedly not quite yet the norm (for hearing people) unless you were watching people with semi-unintelligible accents.
Back then E. had stories about how people in movie theaters threw tantrums if a deaf person asked the theater to turn on captions. I barely ever go to the movies, but I can't remember ever seeing captions in a theater, so maybe that context still hasn't changed the way it has for people streaming at home.
For us personally, it makes it wildly better to watch shows as a family, because the kids absolutely can't shut up and keep from talking over whatever is happening, and this way you can still follow the show.
Balloons, M&Ms, Prehistoric Cars Powered by Feet
E. Messily sent me Mars Wrigley fined after two workers tumbled into chocolate tank last year. Everyone was okay and the tone of the article is rather jaunty and Willa Wonka comparisons are made. Except for this bit:
In a separate workplace incident last year, a 39-year-old worker and father of three fell into an 11ft-deep pot of molten iron and was incinerated at construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar's factory in Mapleton, Illinois, prompting an Osha investigation.
Oh right! Most of the time it's not hilarious! And quoting from E.: "All the news is cartoon based now. Spy balloons that we shoot down with our shotguns, people falling into chocolate factories, the entire world is being destroyed by earthquakes and racism and prehistoric germs. It's hilarious!"
I mean, sometimes cartoons skew pretty dark.
Guest Post: The most popular NYT recipe
NickS. writes: Amusing, and I'd be curious to know what are people's favorite recipes in the category, "not too complicated, but you need to set aside some time to make it." Personally, a few times a year I will make a nice casserole, or a batch of homemade hummus (neither of which have a recipe; they are just made to taste)
The New York Times published 700 recipes last year, but hardly any of them match the vise grip Old Fashioned Beef Stew holds on the cooking division's search metrics. The recipe, with more than 19,000 reviews and an average rating of 5 stars, has been viewed over 24 million times since 2019, with 6.7 million of those visits occurring in 2022 alone. That averages out to around 18,000 hits per day ... A good beef stew remained just outside my nascent culinary instincts, which is why I Googled up a recipe and became one of O'Neill's innumerable students. If there is one common attribute among the millions and millions of people who've landed on Old Fashioned Beef Stew, I imagine it's a desire to officially call themselves a cook -- which, for my money, can only occur after you've simmered broth over the course of a languid afternoon.
Heebie's take: First, it's not actually a NYT link, so it's not paywalled.
This made me laugh:
One reader comment on the Times' recipe for Homemade Hamburger Helper: "After spending a good hour and a half in the kitchen -- on a recipe inspired by a convenience product, of all things -- my teen son and I decided it would more accurately be titled 'Hamburger Complicater.'"
Actual Hamburger Helper is in the 4 week rotation of extremely fast meals at our house. I loathe it and think it tastes like salty dog food, even though I also find it palatable. The anticipation of it is the gross part - it's got a terrible texture and tastes like salt-mush - but in practice it's just a meal on the table, and we're all just trying to get through to bedtime by that point anyway. I just mix in whatever else is on my plate and focus on whatever we're arguing about. Family dinners are a joy and a virtue. Shut up and eat your salt-mush.
I love beef stew, though.