Government Regulation is Necessary, but it has to be SmartRoundup
tags: 1970s, Jimmy Carter, regulation, Administrative State
Paul Sabin is a history professor at Yale University. He is the author of Public Citizens: The Attack on Big Government and the Remaking of American Liberalism.
With his new executive order, “Putting the Public First,” President Biden joins other recent Democratic presidents who have embraced government reform as a strategy for building trust in active government. The effort dates back at least to the 1970s, when President Jimmy Carter sought to balance protecting consumers, workers and the environment with responding to criticism about the costs and impact of federal regulation and bureaucracy.
These two aspects of 1970s liberalism — taking government action to solve public problems while acknowledging the need to improve government itself — came into particular focus one December morning in 1980, at the close of Carter’s presidency. That’s when he signed into law two strikingly different bills: the Superfund hazardous-waste law and the Paperwork Reduction Act.
Superfund strengthened the hand of federal environmental regulators by creating a new legal and funding mechanism to clean up the nation’s hazardous waste sites. The Paperwork Reduction Act pointed in the opposite direction, by eliminating “unnecessary Federal regulations” and providing a way to “regulate the regulators,” Carter explained.
On the surface, the December 1980 double bill-signing neatly divided two historical eras. Superfund represented the last gasp of 1970s environmentalism, while paperwork reduction heralded the conservative ascendancy of newly elected Ronald Reagan.
But Carter and his advisers had paired the bills with a purpose, and Carter enthusiastically signed both measures. Carter did not see the two pieces of legislation as a forced choice between starkly different paths. To him, the Paperwork Reduction Act and the Superfund bill represented two equally important and necessary developments of the 1970s that needed to be combined: the legitimate need for government to protect health, safety and the environment, and the vital importance of government effectiveness and accountability. Our failure to embrace the challenge to do both has paralyzed environmental policymaking and federal regulation ever since.
comments powered by Disqus
- The Debt Ceiling Law is now a Tool of Partisan Political Power; Abolish It
- Amitai Etzioni, Theorist of Communitarianism, Dies at 94
- Kagan, Sotomayor Join SCOTUS Cons in Sticking it to Unions
- New Evidence: Rehnquist Pretty Much OK with Plessy v. Ferguson
- Ohio Unions Link Academic Freedom and the Freedom to Strike
- First Round of Obama Administration Oral Histories Focus on Political Fault Lines and Policy Tradeoffs
- The Tulsa Race Massacre was an Attack on Black People; Rebuilding Policies were an Attack on Black Wealth
- British Universities are Researching Ties to Slavery. Conservative Alumni Say "Enough"
- Martha Hodes Reconstructs Her Memory of a 1970 Hijacking
- Jeremi Suri: Texas Higher Ed Conflict "Doesn't Have to Be This Way"
- New transcript of Ayn Rand at West Point in 1974 shows she claimed “savage" Indians had no right to live here just because they were born here
- The Mexican War Suggests Ukraine May End Up Conceding Crimea. World War I Suggests the Price May Be Tragic if it Doesn't
- The Vietnam War Crimes You Never Heard Of