In my first government job as an environmental paralegal, I saw a lot of what Peter describes. A lot of attention to the symptoms but very little done about the root causes. And don’t forget the ability of well-financed companies to delay and eventually stop any regulation. That realization hit me the day that I discovered that two good ole boys who burned some machines for the copper paid more in fines than a large chemical company that spilled toluene into the Kentucky river.
Personally, I think a major step forward in regulatory reform is to abolish corporate personhood. Then, we can do away with most of the regulations and enforce the few that are left more effectively and efficiently.