I used to love watching westerns on TV from Bonanza and High Chaparral to Masterson and Rawhide. I’d often hear the term, “let’s head ‘em off at the pass!” Those were fun times. Now, that phrase has a different meaning to me. It’s now about finding a way to create rules that are not contested. Let me explain.
A week ago, I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal (http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillarys-soft-despotism-1457998195) that tallied up the work of Congress in 2014. Yes, apparently they did do something. In fact, according to records, they enacted into law (read that passed) 224 measures. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Congress, the legislative branch of government, decided that they cannot or will not get involved in the details and decided to leave it to the administrative side of the government to follow up those laws with regulations.
As a result of “passing the buck” to the other branch, that same year, 3,554 regulations were put into effect. That’s almost 16 nitty-gritty regulations per “high level” law. Of course, one result of these two branches of government creating all these rules, is that people and organizations appeal to the judicial branch of the government to arbitrate and rule on the fairness of everything. The often desired result of vacating the rule or law is rarely accomplished and judges sometimes make their own rules along the way.
Municipalities around the country have come up with a possible solution. It falls into the category of, “If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.” It’s called a Public Private Partnership or 3P. A good example is toll roads. If the municipalities embrace capitalism and private enterprise, then the prospect of adding costs will be like "a little sugar helps to make the medicine go down.” Unfortunately, those partnerships don’t always seem to work out to the benefit of everyone, maybe no one. In a place where westerns are a natural, Mustang Ridge, Texas, a 3P Toll Road appeals to the judicial branch to protect them from creditors through bankruptcy. Truckers are unwilling to pay $33.83 to be able to go as fast as 85MPH, burning up fuel in the process. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/frugal-motorists-test-private-toll-roads-1458379807)
That brings me to the fourth way of government-- controlling what happens. It’s called agreements. In 2010, heads of trucking met in the Rose Garden to affirm their voluntary agreement with new rules for fuel consumption and greenhouse gas. Last year, the vehicle OEM’s agreed to make service information available to third parties, in an effort to avoid a patchwork of state rules that might have taken hold. Last week, the passenger car OEMs agreed to make radar systems with automatic braking standard by 2022. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/car-makers-pledge-to-make-automatic-brakes-standard-by-2022-sources-say-1458145777).
Laws, regulations, partnerships, agreements. It is certainly an area that takes much time and effort from businesses large and small. It’s the purview of the many trade associations that exist in every industry as they work to minimize the negative effect on their business members. Agreements may be a way of minimizing the impact to business. It gets some accolades for the government regulators without as much work as required by the regulatory process. Maybe it’s a better deal for business, I’m not yet sure. It sure seems like a new way to "head ‘em off at the pass."