24 September 2009

"Proper scientists, not mad vegetarians on bicycles..."

Via Professor Bainbridge, here's some good talk about speed cameras from the Top Gear fellas:

(Previous analysis from Top Gear here on the matter of driving habits and fuel efficiency.)

Can we make legislation self-culling? Is there any precedent for putting measures into new legislation which would void the law if it was ineffective? I know we have sunset provisions now, but I'm looking for something which actually bases the phase-out on a measured effect and not just wall clock time.

Something like "Whereas we wish to reduce traffic fatalities and believe speed cameras to be an effective means of doing so, this legislation authorizes installing cameras along public roads blah blah blah... If, after a period of five years, traffic fatalities on roads with cameras are not lower than they were prior to the passage of this bill, use of speed cameras to issue citations is withdrawn."

I know legislators can always reauthorize anything which expired in that way, but for so many issues where there's a one-way ratcheting effect (like punishments for sex offenders) it would seem useful to have a decay function built in to counter act the ratcheting.

I suppose you could also introduce an autoinhibitory effect where the original, expired legislation would stipulate that it must be actively repealed before any new laws could be passed on the same matter, but that probably wouldn't be very useful since if you had the votes to pass the new law you'd have the votes to overturn the old one. But still, it extends the unexplained mental analogy I have right now to neurotransmitter mechanics which got me thinking about this. Okay, I'm much too pre-occupied with neuroscience to think about this now. Signing off...

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