Clean Air Act of 1970: Benefits-to-costs ratio: 30 to 1.
Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990: Benefits-to-costs ratio: 30 to 1.
Average across all Environmental Protection Agency rules passed between 2000 and 2010: Benefits-to-costs ratio: 10 to 1.
That should be cause for celebration, shouldn’t it?
Any benefits-to-costs ratio above one means that benefits exceed costs. That’s good, of course, but the goal isn’t to maximize the ratio. The goal is to achieve a point where the next incremental legislation achieves as much in terms of benefits as it does in costs. In the extreme—when you look at the smallest possible policy chunk—that means we are shooting for ratios as close as possible to 1:1.
Ratios of 10:1 and above point to real potential inefficiencies: Too many costs are being socialized. EPA isn’t doing nearly enough to protect us from ourselves.