The 15 contributors to this volume have an important message. They are convinced that both environmental and economic costs of bureaucratic management of natural resources are too high, and unnecessarily so. The main reason is an institutional one: Authority is given to those who do not bear responsibility for the consequences o f their actions.

A classic case is the set of specific numerical emission standards for automobiles in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970. Congress arrived at these standards without a scientific basis, without technical analysis, and certainly without any consideration of costs and benefits. Only 3 years later did Senator Muskie ask the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. The NAS results were presented in a fashion that seemed to support the action of Congress; yet, the statutory emissions standards yielded marginal costs well beyond their marginal benefits. They had a major impact on Detroit during the 1970's, and very likely damaged, perhaps irreversibly, the competitive standing of the American automobile industry, a major segment of the U.S. economy. But the economic costs of these actions were never considered, least of all by the responsible bureaucrats. They were completely buffered from any consequences flowing from the exercise of their authority.