Explaining the Persistence of 'Command-and-Control' in US Environmental Law

14 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2017 Last revised: 21 Nov 2017

See all articles by Daniel H. Cole

Daniel H. Cole

Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Date Written: August 22, 2017

Abstract

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

Cole, Daniel H., Explaining the Persistence of 'Command-and-Control' in US Environmental Law (August 22, 2017). Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 380. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3024177 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3024177

Daniel H. Cole (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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