Friday, February 24, 2012

Over-regulated America

The Economist Magazine, Feb. 18th 2012, states, "The home of laissez-faire is being suffocated by excessive and badly written regulation."

After reviewing the dismal situation, the Economist suggests,

"America needs a smarter approach to regulation. First, all important rules should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis by an independent watchdog. The results should be made public before the rule is enacted. All big regulations should also come with sunset clauses, so that they expire after, say, ten years unless Congress explicitly re-authorises them.

More important, rules need to be much simpler. When regulators try to write an all-purpose instruction manual, the truly important dos and don’ts are lost in an ocean of verbiage. Far better to lay down broad goals and prescribe only what is strictly necessary to achieve them. Legislators should pass simple rules, and leave regulators to enforce them."

For more, see and

A smarter approach certainly needs to be tried with respect to import restrictions on cultural artifacts.

Currently, the US State Department and US Customs apply a one size fits all approach to all artifacts, i.e., the same onerous documentation is required to import the $1o million dollar statue as the $10 coin. Moreover, the regulations restrict artifacts by their "country of origin" or manufacture, giving lip service to the statutory requirement that any restricted artifact must be "first discovered" in and be "subject to the export control" of a specific country. Finally, it was never thought that restrictions would be renewed over and over again every five years. Rather, the point of the governing legislation was to give source countries time to get their own house in order, not to forever ban imports of cultural goods from a given country.

Instead, why not target restrictions better, get rid of the one size fits all approach, and sunset restrictions after giving source countries a reasonable time to get their act together?

It should be about conservation not control. The current system has failed because the real costs to our museums, collectors and businesses that deal in cultural goods are not factored into the equation whatsoever. Instead, it's all about making foreign cultural bureaucracies "look good" rather than really encouraging them to "do good" for their own cultural treasures and citizens.

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