Explaining the Persistence of 'Command-and-Control' in US Environmental Law
14 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2017 Last revised: 21 Nov 2017
Date Written: August 22, 2017
Economists and legal scholars have known for decades that "economic instruments," including cap-and-trade regimes and effluent taxes, can reduce emissions at lower cost than command-and-control regulations. Yet, the US system of environmental law remains heavily dominated by command-and-control. How can we explain this remarkable persistence?
This paper considers three alternative explanations: (1) path-dependency; (2) public choice theories of interest-group politics; and (3) social-welfare/economic efficiency. Using examples, mainly from the US Clean Air Act, the paper finds that none of the three alternatives offers a sufficient and complete explanation of the persistence of command-and-control. But all three contribute significantly to a comprehensive explanation.
Keywords: Pollution, Clean Air Act, Command-and-Control, Effluent Taxes, Cap-and-Trade, Public Choice, Interest-Group Politics, Path Dependence, Social Welfare, Efficiency
JEL Classification: K32, Q5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation