Federal Regulators Are Risky “Designers”

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In “Biological and Chemical Safety Nets” (editorial page, Feb. 27), Lawrence Wein says that voluntary security efforts at the nation's chemical plants represent the only progress in this area, and he suggests this is a serious problem. He calls for a policy to “redesign” the “processes or products” of facilities. First, it's wrong to downplay voluntary efforts because, after all, self-protection is the strongest incentive for facilities to implement effective security measures.


In addition, Department of Homeland Security regulations rightly focus on managing the risks of chemicals rather than the government-directed elimination or reformulation advocated by Prof. Wein. If we learned anything from the fall of communism, it's that government regulators are particularly bad in designing and managing industrial processes. Regulators are likely to make fatal mistakes that jeopardize society's continued access to the products that play critical roles in cleaning drinking water, disinfecting hospitals, and producing food and medicine.


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