This week I had lunch with a state regulator who feared the following possibility: What if his state commences with the painful and costly TRO proceeding only to have the DC Circuit rule shortly thereafter that the FCC must take another look at its granular prescriptions? It very well may be all the pain of a proceeding without the gain of a resolution for the providers - ultimately the consumers - in his state.
All the kerfuffle about the order is certainly warranted. But I was surprised to have the same conversation flow naturally from a discussion of how some regulators - admittedly few - are taking this calm before the storm as an opportunity to "re-evaluate," "assess" and "look hard" at whether serving as a state official in 2004 is a good use of their time and talents. Has the FCC made such a mess that even the most engaged officials don't want any part of the clean-up efforts?
This conversation led me to reconsider Ray's "Great Man" (01/02/04). At what level do the "challenges" of regulatory policy cross a significant threshold? While great men and women are attracted to challenging tasks - in this case, creating an environment where competition can flourish - there must come a point when such impediments as the TRO will push talent away from the public sector and into other avenues. Who wants to spend her time and energy for naught? Perhaps we have a public choice corollary to the law of diminishing returns.