For your liberty!
James Eyer
Candidate for U.S. Congress District 9

Position Statement: Output-based Solutions


In principle government solutions -- laws, regulations, and rules -- are intended to result in a specific outcome. Since government tends to get most things bass ackwards most of the time it should be no surprise that government often regulates inputs to a process rather than specifying a measurable outcome (success).

Not only is this often just plain illogical, usually such input-based approaches are proposed based in part, on political criteria, rather than facts and a clear definition of success (output).

Political criteria which influence inputs may include:

  1. number of votes which are at stake
  2. number and quality of potential grand-standing and photo opportunities
  3. which campaign contributors, if any, will be helped by use of more "inputs" (material or equipment)

There are so many examples of input-based rules and regulations which should be output-based, but here are just a few:

In our society, rather than focus on safety for people involved in safety-sensitive jobs we test for drug and alcohol use. The goal is safety, yet we focus narrowly on illegal drug or alcohol use.

This is especially compelling today; technology can be used to detect impairment from any cause such as:

  1. inattentiveness due to use of cigarettes, grief, an infatuation, thinking about an upcoming event, etc.
  2. use of over-the-counter or prescription medications
  3. M.S., Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, or other chronic medical ailment

The environmental arena is, perhaps, a better example: Many so-called environmental regulations specify the following for various activities

  1. what must be done before a given activity may occur
  2. which equipment to use
  3. what must go into the process

The point? Without regard to the merits of a given regulation per se, specifying the “allowable” pollution level (output) is much better than saying “must use solution X and not solution Y.” Once the outcome is specified government should allow the widest latitude possible with regard to how the goal is to be met.

For “clean air,” currently ethanol is the front-end solution de jour for cars. Before that it was the poisonous chemical MTBE.

Think about it. First the government uses coercion to force gasoline vendors to sell a chemical which has been proven to poison people. And now, big agri-business companies will reap a huge windfall as mandated use of ethanol -- alcohol from corn -- increases. (Note: ethanol requires more energy to make than the amount of energy realized when driving.) Other related examples include catalytic converters for automobiles and California's "reformulated" fuels.

Power plants are common targets too. Rather than specifying what the outcome should be, often air emission regulations specify what equipment, techniques, or inputs must be used. The only certain result of this approach is that more of the front-end equipment or input material will be sold.

Use of “preferences” -- such as that used for higher education -- is yet another example. Black and Latino children who pass through our very suboptimal K – 12 government schools and who end up with low proficiency compared to others have not been served well. If suboptimal government K – 12 schools must exist we should at least seek quality output rather than specify what mix of peoples should be admitted (input) to our colleges and universities.


Most front-end approaches should be avoided or eliminated. Specifically: environmental regulations and rules should specify pollution levels coming out of equipment and processes, not what equipment, input materials, or approaches must be used to achieve the goal.

rev 7/9/04