Date of Original Version

Fall 1983


Book Review

Abstract or Description

When grey~haired economists sit around the lounge, recounting their heroic deeds to wide-eyed graduate students, one saga will concern the regulation and deregulation of occupational safety:

"We told 'em not to intervene, that federal regulation wouldn't do any good, and would only impose large costs and fed tape on employers. Did they listen to us? You can bet they didn't. Those do-gooders filled the pages of the Federal Register. They required employers to buy new toilet seats and replace 29 inch handrails with 30 inch handrails. As we predicted, they held the government up to ridicule, wasted billions of dollars, and didn't improve worker safety by one whit. When all that was painfully clear to everyone, many, many years later, we got them to let the market do most of the job."

Telling the story with relish, although in less colloquial English, Viscusi scores those economically ignorant (politically savvy) do-gooders who won most of the battles when he was Deputy Director of the Council on Wage and Price Stability. Of course, the last act, giving a greater role to market forces, has yet to be written, but this book is intended to be a boost to the process.



Published In

The Bell Journal of Economics , 14, 2, 607-610.