How about waiting periods before legislative hearings?

March 16th, 2011

Today the House Energy and Commerce committee held a hearing on nuclear energy, focusing on what the United States can learn from the recent tragedies in Japan, and how to prevent similar accidents in the United States. One passage in particular stuck out:

Both sides are expected to express deep sympathy and concern for Japan, but then raise the question of how the United States can learn from this disaster and its own reactors safer, and whether it is time to stop or delay construction of new reactors, the approval of new designs and the granting of license renewals to aging plants.

The tsunami has many of the characteristics of a black swan–especially with respect to the response of the nuclear meltdown threat. Unsurprisingly, the state is attempting to rationalize this entirely unpredictable natural disaster (the largest earthquake in a century),and make policy choices to help avoid a repeat of that unavoidable event. This seems similar to the kneejerk shutdown of all offshore drilling following the BP Oil Spill (the Department of Interior was actually held in contempt for failing to re-open the drilling).

I previously proposed waiting periods before voting on pieces of legislation. How about waiting periods before holding these types of hearings? Certainly any comments that any of the witnesses make will not be acted on for quite some time. Holding these hearings right away is not important from a practical point of view. Rather, it aims to seize the moment.