“Regulations don’t always work as planned,” says Tom W. Bell, Professor of Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law in They Say It Can’t Be Done, a documentary highlighting four world-changing technologies and how the people working in those fields view the current regulatory environment. Toward the start of the film, Professor Bell says that when people advocate for regulations, “[t]hey don’t necessarily want more regulations. They want problems fixed.” However, “regulations don’t always work as planned” and can be “like trying to fix a watch with a sledgehammer sometimes.”
To the documentary’s credit, it strays far from platitudes about regulation. Too often, people discuss regulation in abstract terms to which people unfamiliar with the particular statutes will struggle to relate. Other times, people paint regulations—particularly environmental ones—with a broad brush as “necessary,” without any real consideration of the regulations on their own merit or in a way that accounts for their real-world effects. Rather, the documentary includes excerpts from top innovators such as Eat Just, Dr. Anthony Atala, the Catalina Sea Ranch, and the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. From creating plastic “trees” to remove carbon dioxide from the air to creating organs made of a person’s own cells to transplant into them, these companies are developing innovations with the potential to change the world by solving our most pressing problems. Unfortunately, They Say It Can’t Be Done depicts the numerous places that these innovations find themselves stalled in the face of confusing, outdated, and slow regulations.