Dean Clough

February 19, 2024

Portico Darwin: Regulatory Capture and Scale are Killing Us



<3 Minute Read

I had a light, informative post for the start of the week, but that will have to wait until Wednesday.   

I've written previously about corruption, guns, and election reform in America.  I stand by each post.   

But another mass shooting made me realize the issue isn't the guns.  There is also no red or blue tinge to this:  It's about power and greed, not Republicans or Democrats. 

The problems are Regulatory Capture and Scale.   

Regulatory Capture refers to the myriad ways interested parties influence or outright direct individuals, agencies, and/or legislative bodies to create laws, rules, and policies that make them money, save them money, or in some other way, benefit them.  Often in ways that are . . . opaque.

Sure, that's gone on forever, but the problem now is that the scale of life now makes inaction or malign action much worse.  Be it not reforming Section 230, taxing capital gains differently than labor, or resolving the immigration mess, not reasonably addressing what ails us has an impact today that wasn't possible before.

First, there was essentially no Internet before the 1990s.  Media consisted of 3 TV channels, movies, AM radio, magazines, and newspapers - all tightly regulated.  The Fairness Doctrine is a prime and also long-gone example of the rules in place at the time.

Now?  Meta, Alphabet, and the rest do what they want, but at a scale previously unthinkable, with wreckage (teen suicides, isolation, depression, etc.) that matches.  And they can do it because their scale in terms of money and lobbyists has grown to essentially infinity.  They can outspend and out-lawyer any government agency or body.  So they get to continue to write the rules by which they play.

Likewise, the rich getting richer.  Again, that's always been the case.  But the policies begun by Reagan have metastasized into a wealth inequality now that is a grotesque positive spiral for 1 percenters, but a doom loop for many others.  We thus have socialism for the rich, yet hardboiled capitalism for the poor.  Again, the wealthy and the powerful create the policies by which we all live, and guess who reaps the benefits?

Immigration?  I wrote about that last week, but I didn't include the magnitude of this problem.  There are simply too many people coming into the United States illegally - and in a lot of other places worldwide, too.  Why?  Because of the scale of the wealth inequality (oppression, too, in many places) described above.  People are impoverished and dying because of it, so they'll do anything to get somewhere that's even just a tiny bit less awful. 

But there's no change, because Big Agriculture, Big Meat, and Big Pharma don't want any.  The former two want cheap labor, while the latter wants to be the only legal drug dealer in town - so who cares if coca, fentanyl, and meth production in Mexico, and Central and South America is destroying societies? 

That brings us to something else that has scaled, in this case horrifically, over the years:  The destructive power of guns and ammunition - and the sheer numbers of both in America now. 

As recently as 50 years ago, there was not much else on the streets apart from pistols, single-shot rifles, and shotguns.  But since, our "leaders" have since allowed weapons of war to infiltrate, permeate, and destroy civilized society.  Meanwhile, the sheer number of guns of every type has grown to psychotic proportions.

I believe I speak for most by saying I have about fucking had it with gun violence in the U.S. 

I am beyond fed-up with this national disease and its awful impact, but even more sick of the regulatory capture by the (meaningless and impotent) National Rifle Association. 

The inability of the U.S. Congress to do anything - anything at all! - about this are exhibits A-Z in terms of regulatory capture.

But let it not be said I only bang on and on about problems without proposing solutions. 

While I fear addressing the scale of things in today's world may resemble returning a genie to a bottle, regulatory capture can be fixed.  Or at least we could try.

Final Five or Ranked Choice Voting is a proven way to fix the hyper-partisan, gerrymandered, and broken-down clown car that is governing today. 

This is from Wisconsin Watch, from an article about how that state is debating its implementation.

What are final five voting and ranked-choice voting?  Final five voting involves all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, running in the same primary election.  The five candidates who receive the most votes then advance to the general election (for example, the general election ballot could feature two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Libertarian).  The general election then uses ranked-choice voting — sometimes referred to as “instant runoff” voting.  

In this system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference.  After each round of counting, the candidate who receives the fewest votes is eliminated, and the voters who ranked that candidate first have their ballots redistributed based on their next choice.  The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.

This works where it's been attempted.  And it would scale.  

But I'm afraid regulatory capture may prevent that from ever happening..


This is not a tease, but a fact:  Recent material provided by London Calling co-star Randy Smee reveals a side of your author that few most have seen.  Here's a preview, because it will be a few chapters before we get to this, our legendary pub lock-in night, from the summer of 1998.

Lord knows what time we rolled up to the Smee residence, but shortly after arriving, you fell all of the way down the stairs, waking up the household.  You were lying limbs twisted with your glasses still on your head but at half-mast and smiling stupidly in a drunken haze, insisting “I'm fine, man”.

You'd have to be familiar with Randy's imitation of my New York/American accent to fully appreciate the ending.

But this was completely Randy's fault.  Who takes an innocent American to a rural pub where the proprietor locks the patrons inside at the 10 PM closing time?  And then forces him to stay there until 2 AM (at least), guzzling those perfectly awful hand-pulled imperial pints of British ale?  With a bunch of locals?

And then he expects fucking ballet dancing?

10 Seconds of Seriousness:  That's the place (at least as it appears now), and thank you, Randy, all these many years later, for one of the better nights of London Calling

Thank you for reading this newsletter. 


I Want to Live.  Says every American citizen attending an event in public.

That song and so many equally great tunes are on this album, somehow overlooked to date on KLUFHere are The Radiators and the Textbook Zig-Zaggin' Through Ghostland.

About Dean Clough