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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain command-and-control regulation
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of command-and-control regulation

When the United States started passing comprehensive environmental laws in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a typical law specified how much pollution could be emitted out of a smokestack or a drainpipe and imposed penalties if that limit was exceeded. Other laws required the installation of certain equipment—for example, on automobile tailpipes or on smokestacks—to reduce pollution. These types of laws, which specify allowable quantities of pollution and which also may detail which pollution-control technologies must be used, fall under the category of command-and-control regulation    . In effect, command-and-control regulation requires that firms increase their costs by installing anti-pollution equipment; firms are thus required to take the social costs of pollution into account.

Command-and-control regulation has been highly successful in protecting and cleaning up the U.S. environment. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to oversee all environmental laws. In the same year, the Clean Air Act was enacted to address air pollution. Just two years later, in 1972, Congress passed and the president signed the far-reaching Clean Water Act . These command-and-control environmental laws, and their amendments and updates, have been largely responsible for America’s cleaner air and water in recent decades. However, economists have pointed out three difficulties with command-and-control environmental regulation.

First, command-and-control regulation offers no incentive to improve the quality of the environment beyond the standard set by a particular law. Once the command-and-control regulation has been satisfied, polluters have zero incentive to do better.

Second, command-and-control regulation is inflexible. It usually requires the same standard for all polluters, and often the same pollution-control technology as well. This means that command-and-control regulation draws no distinctions between firms that would find it easy and inexpensive to meet the pollution standard—or to reduce pollution even further—and firms that might find it difficult and costly to meet the standard. Firms have no reason to rethink their production methods in fundamental ways that might reduce pollution even more and at lower cost.

Third, command-and-control regulations are written by legislators and the EPA, and so they are subject to compromises in the political process. Existing firms often argue (and lobby) that stricter environmental standards should not apply to them, only to new firms that wish to start production. Consequently, real-world environmental laws are full of fine print, loopholes, and exceptions.

Although critics accept the goal of reducing pollution, they question whether command-and-control regulation is the best way to design policy tools for accomplishing that goal. A different approach is the use of market-oriented tools, which are discussed in the next section.

Key concepts and summary

Command-and-control regulation sets specific limits for pollution emissions and/or specific pollution-control technologies that must be used. Although such regulations have helped to protect the environment, they have three shortcomings: they provide no incentive for going beyond the limits they set; they offer limited flexibility on where and how to reduce pollution; and they often have politically-motivated loopholes.

Questions & Answers

what economic trend can we expect after lifting of 10 year long sanctions in an national economy?
tesfie Reply
difference between change in demand and change in quantity demanded
Maurice Reply
how to change
For a demand with repect to price. change in demand refers to the shifting of demand curve, where as change in quantity demanded means movement along the given demand curve.
According to lional Robbins how did he explain economics
Raphael Reply
He defined economics as a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scares which has alternative uses.
What is economics
Nasiru Reply
why are some countries producing inside the ppf
Claire Reply
prove or disprove that balance of trade of trade deficit is a cause of an abnormal demand curve?
Chioma Reply
what's the fixed cost at output zero
Saidou Reply
fixed cost stay the same regardless of the level of output
what are the differences between change in demand and change in quantity demand
Sulaiman Reply
what is consumers behaviour
Marfo Reply
importance of income
Emmanuel Reply
Tfor settlement of debt. For purchases. For payment of bills. For daily transactions. For social & recreational enjoyment. For business purposes etc
For investment purposes For security purposes For purpose of forecasting & strategizing.
what is the real definition of economics
jegede Reply
Economics is the study of the use and allocation of (scarce) resources
Jegede, what is the "non" real definition of economics then?
Economics is a study of how human use limited resources to fulfil their unlimited want
the study of how a society use scarce factors of production efficiently so as meet aggregate social demand
what is oligopoly?
Oligopoly can be defines as a market where by there is only tmo or more sellers of a commodity
Sory not tmo but two
incidence of production there is a choice do you agree? justify
Oduro Reply
What is incidence of production? do u mean incidence of tax?
I want to know about Richard lipsey and robin as the economist and their definition proposed by them
Musa Reply
what are the causes of scarcity And what are the goal scarcity
scarcity only exist because human wants are unlimited...if human just know how to be contented then scarcity will not exist
what is ment by possibility curve
define accounting?teatly
Ahmed Reply
Is the recording, classifying, interpreting record of all transaction
is still the act of measuring, interpreting and communicating of financial issues
measuring business or individual finance
Accounting is the process of collecting,recording,classifying,summarizing and interpreting/presenting financial data to the stakeholders for their economic decision making
wat is PPC
what are the different between need and wants
Musa Reply
the major difference is necessity

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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