Out of Control Policy Blog

Greedy governments

Red light cameras are popping up at intersections all over. They're supposed to improve safety, but:

    [S]everal studies in recent years--in places like San Diego, Charlotte, N.C., and Australia ... have shown that the reduction in side-angle collisions at the intersections has been wholly or largely offset by an increase in rear-end accidents ...

And when they're installed, safety might not be priority one anyhow:

    [T]here has been criticism of the cameras' use to generate revenue from fines--in some cases exceeding $300 per violation, with points on a driver's record--and of revenue-sharing arrangements with providers of the technology. Those arrangements, critics contend, have led to the placement of cameras not necessarily where they would best promote safety, but where they will rack up the most violations.

And what about phone service over the internet? Is it simply a great new technology that allows for cheaper calls? Utility regulators in Minnesota or California don't see it that way.

They're fighting a recent FCC decision that bars them from slapping on certain kinds of regulations, and the reason is simple: governments want more money. As more calls travel through the lightly regulated internet, fewer go through the heavily taxed regular telephone network.

Dumping regulations on emerging internet technologies could slow future innovation, but politicians aren't too keen on simply stepping aside. If they aren't regulating new technology, they're subsidizing it:

    It's been hard to open up a newspaper these past few months without reading about yet another state and local government with ambitious plans to bring the benefits of wireless technologies to their citizens and businesses.

Such moves may seem conflicting and incoherent, but they're done with the same goals in mind: do more, expand your domain, expand your budget, expand your influence, get re-elected. That's greed, government sector style.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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