coronavirus3-pixabay-wide.jpg
March 25, 2020 by Sidney Shapiro, Liz Fisher

Three Steps for an Expert Response to COVID-19

Whatever one's political views, the end goal regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the same – to minimize the number of people dying and suffering from severe disease. As commentators have repeatedly noted, we need genuine expertise for that. Beyond involving scientists and physicians in decision-making, there are three steps in determining what that expertise should look like and how we tap into it most effectively.

First, the experts can inform decision-making, even if uncertainty will remain. While we can all agree on the end point – no one dying – how to get there is not clear, even to the experts. Rigorous expert judgment and a respect for science are therefore required. Expertise is developed not just from professional training, but from experience in using that training over and over, building up a store of experience that makes one a better expert.

Ultimately, however, the choices in uncertain situations are the province of democratically elected leaders. Much as a patient in a physician's office must choose a path of treatment based on the doctor's advice, elected leaders must make decisions affecting an entire population. These choices are ripe for controversy because there is no one obvious choice about how best to stop the …

Oct. 18, 2018 by Martha McCluskey, Sidney Shapiro
FloodedCity_wide.jpg

This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. 

While hurricanes like Florence are technically “natural” disasters, the Carolinas are experiencing the ways that the distinctly human-made problems of social and economic inequality reinforce and aggravate storm damage. Exhibit A is the catastrophic breaches and spills from the enormous manure “lagoons” located on North Carolina’s many factory-scale hog farms.

In the industry, these farms are known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, but nobody with a nose passing within a few miles of one would say that food is the thing in large concentrations. Torrential rainfall and floodwaters from Florence caused dozens of lagoons to overflow, releasing a toxic stew of contaminants harmful to human and ecological health, including E. coli and other bacteria.

The residents of the surrounding communities put most directly at risk are disproportionately poor or people of color. These communities have long suffered …

Oct. 2, 2018 by Sidney Shapiro, Robert Verchick
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission.

The reactions to our article, Inequality, Social Resilience, and the Green Economy, have a clear message: We, environmentalists, have our work cut out for us.

We wrote our article to start an overdue conversation about environmental policy and social and economic well-being, and we thank our commentators for joining us in starting this conservation. In response, we would note that, although protecting the environment and achieving justice has never been easy, the United States has made progress over time. We are persuaded, despite the caveats our commentators have identified, that the country can do so again.

Michael P. Vandenbergh warns of the political danger of tying the environmental agenda to social well-being in our current political state, and we agree with this warning for all of …

Sept. 24, 2018 by Sidney Shapiro, Robert Verchick
wind-solar-wide.jpg

Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission.

A green economy will generate thousands of new jobs — many more than will be lost to regulations on carbon pollution. But a green economy may also increase wealth inequality in some parts of the United States because people who lose jobs to carbon controls are not the same as those who will get them when the green economy blooms. For example, the kiln operator laid off from a cement plant in Virginia will probably not end up installing rooftop solar panels New Mexico. And based on the demographics of today's fossil fuel industry, job losses due to environmental regulations will likely affect whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans in significant numbers.

Nevertheless, when regulatory advocates have responded in the past to critics who thunder against "job-killing" regulation, they …

Sept. 5, 2018 by Sidney Shapiro
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

This is the first in a series of posts from CPR's new From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report and provides a preview of the preface and executive summary. From September 6-26, CPR will post a new chapter from the report each weekday on CPRBlog. The full report, including a downloadable PDF, will also be available on CPR's website.

Preface: An Ounce of Prevention

The story is now familiar. An area of the United States is battered by a superstorm, hurricane, or other climate disaster, resulting in a calamity for the people who live and work there. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers emergency assistance, but since it is not enough to address the harms that occurred, Congress acts to provide hundreds of millions of dollars of additional assistance. 

But imagine a counter-narrative, with a significantly better outcome. In that story, we …

April 5, 2017 by Sidney Shapiro
pig-farm-wide.jpg

This op-ed originally ran in the Raleigh News & Observer.

The civil justice system in North Carolina exists to protect people and their property from unreasonable actions by others. One of the longest standing causes of action in civil courts is for nuisance claims, which allow you to bring suit when your neighbor creates a condition on their property that interferes with your ability to use and enjoy your property, such as excessive noise, poorly stored garbage that might attract vermin or foul odors.

Yet, House Bill 467, which is being fast-tracked through the legislature, would prevent hundreds of rural landowners from recovering more than token damages even if a court were to decide that the corporations responsible for factory farming have committed just such a nuisance.

Nuisance suits are already limited to addressing conditions that are unreasonable for the area where they occur. They also protect …

July 7, 2016 by Sidney Shapiro
usda-bldg-wide.jpg

Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro.

Although it is well known that regulatory capture can subvert the public interest, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are two forms of capture that can affect the performance of regulatory agencies.

The "old capture"—which is what most of us think of when we think of regulatory capture—occurs when regulators become so co-opted by the regulated entities or special interests they are supposed to regulate that they end up working to advance those interests instead of the public interest articulated in their statutory mission. In the "new capture," regulators attempt to serve the public interest, but they are stymied by procedural requirements that have gummed up the regulatory process and by deep budget cuts that make it more difficult to comply with those requirements. Both forms of capture subvert the public interest, but it …

March 14, 2016 by Sidney Shapiro
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

I was recently a panelist at a Senate workshop on regulatory capture sponsored by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). In an earlier post about this event, I wrote about the potential of enhanced transparency to reduce regulatory capture, which I discussed at the workshop. Conservative commentators at the workshop argued that agencies are captured by public interest groups as well as by regulated entities. They contended that Congress should thus pass the REINs Act to reduce capture from both types of regulatory stakeholders. Of course, their fears of public interest capture are greatly overblown, as the potential for these groups to capture agencies is far more hypothetical than real. But the real problem is that the REINS Act, if it became law, would increase regulatory capture, not decrease it.  

My earlier post explained that the imposition of budget cuts by Congress on regulatory agencies …

March 11, 2016 by Sidney Shapiro
SBAwide.jpg

The subject of regulatory capture was back on Capital Hill last week as the result of a briefing sponsored by Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). In 2010, I testified concerning regulatory capture in a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), but in the midst of the broad-scale conservative assault on regulation, the issue hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves. That’s unfortunate for a simple reason. As Rena Steinzor and I establish in our book, many aspects of the regulatory system are downright dysfunctional, and we identified regulatory capture as a significant source of this dysfunction.

Regulatory capture is a complex issue and determining how best to reduce the amount of capture is challenging, as a helpful book on the subject edited by Dan Carpenter and David Moss establishes. Nevertheless, there are some steps that Congress or the President can take …

Oct. 6, 2015 by Sidney Shapiro
Pope_Francis_and_Speaker_Boehner.jpg

The resignation of House Speaker John Boehner and the VW diesel car scandal -- two rather extraordinary events -- might not initially appear to be related, but there is a connection. The most conservative members of the Republican caucus celebrated Representative Boehner's resignation because they felt he did not fight hard enough to shrink the size of the federal government through more aggressive tactics, like government shutdowns. Although one of government's most important functions is to deter behavior such as that of VW, the radical Republicans would organize American society using only markets, not government. The difficulty with this stance is that corporations "cheating" consumers is an unavoidable aspect of capitalistic markets, making government regulation a necessity.

Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations famously identifies an "invisible hand" by which individual self-interest has the effect of benefiting society more effectively than when an individual intends to …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 25, 2020

Three Steps for an Expert Response to COVID-19

Oct. 18, 2018

The Hill Op-Ed: As Hurricanes Expose Inequalities, Civil Courts May Be 'Great Equalizer'

Oct. 2, 2018

Environmental Justice Is Worth Fighting For

Sept. 24, 2018

Regulating the Green Economy

Sept. 5, 2018

From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery

April 5, 2017

News and Observer Op-ed: Bill Would Weaken Neighbors' Ability to Be Compensated in Hog Farm Lawsuits

July 7, 2016

Old and New Capture