The ideology of red tape reduction

What could be wrong with having a thorough look at the overgrown regulatory forest and hacking back a few trees?

Quite Mr. Kettle, quite.

In the past, even Conservative governments have tended to see most regulatory frameworks as an accumulation of rules and sectoral improvements in which an occasional winnowing is necessary. This government turns that on its head. Its explicit default presumption is that regulations will go unless they can be justified. \”If ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay,\” says the site.

Here is where we can glimpse, even if it\’s not well explained as yet, the ideological divide.

Let\’s agree that we all do indeed agree that we\’ve got to do the winnowing. Without such we\’d still have the law that you can kill a Welshman inside the walls of Chester after nightfall.

OK, fine.

Now, here comes the ideology: why do we have regulation (or legislation, for that matter). Two conceptual positions:

1) There\’s got to be a law about it otherwise how will people know what they\’re allowed to do?

2) Where\’s there\’s a specific problem that is solvable by law or regulation let\’s solve it. Otherwise, no law or regulation. And what exactly is the problem this regulation is trying to solve, is it important enough to involve the State and does it solve the problem?

Yes, they\’re broad brush caricatures and as all such contain a germ of truth.

Position 2) is the traditional English response. 1) is the more \”Roman Law\”, continental, perhaps we might even say social democratic response.

We are English and I\’ve no problem with the idea that we might trawl through that thicket and lay flat many of the laws, saving only those we can hide behind when the Devil turns on us.

I also agree that there are others who insist that no, there needs to be rules \’n\’ regs about everything for how otherwise will the poor lambs know what the beneficient rulers have allowed them to do?

But then again we\’re English so fuck those prodnose bastards.

There are things that have to be done and that can only be done by government. This is why we do in fact need to have a government. There are also problems that must be solved and which can only be solved by the law and regulation. So let us have those laws and regulations. But anything which does not solve a problem, does not solve a problem which can only be solved that way and also that actually needs solving, get rid of it.

So that\’s about 90% of the rules \’n\’ regs for the bonfire then, eh?

12 thoughts on “The ideology of red tape reduction”

  1. Its explicit default presumption is that regulations will go unless they can be justified. “If ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay,” says the site.

    God, how terrible! Isn’t it just awful that rules should be justified?

    Where do they get these people?

  2. “If ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay,”

    Maybe I’ve read too much Yes, Prime Minister, but in these cases the Minister will be nothing more than the mouthpiece of their bureaucrats and we can be sure that all regulations will be justified.

  3. God, how terrible! Isn’t it just awful that rules should be justified?

    I made this point with some lefties on a web forum recently. They seemed genuinely convinced that all legislation has come about by a thorough, considered, and impartial process and those taking part in the review will only be those with the time and money do so, i.e. the vested interests of capitalism. They honestly think there is no bad regulation out there, despite 13 years of New Labour ramming through bills faster than you could count them.

  4. Position 3: The regulation isn’t trying to solve a problem, it exists solely to provide work for regulators.

  5. “..There are also problems that must be solved and which can only be solved by the law and regulation. So let us have those laws and regulations…”

    Tim, you missed out a very important point. New laws and regulations often create new problems, often worse than the problems intended to be solved. So we only should allow laws and regulations which don’t create new problems. And if we allow something to go ahead which does unexpectedly cause new problems we should withdraw it pronto.

  6. The irony being of course that many regulations are lobbied for by the big players in an industry to hobble their smaller, nimble competitors.

  7. Tim Newman,

    They seemed genuinely convinced that all legislation has come about by a thorough, considered, and impartial process…

    Hahahaha!

    Ignoramuses.

  8. Roman Law always gets a bad rap, but let me quote from JA Crook (Law and Life of Rome):
    “…to what extent did the state interfere in the private lives and property of individuals? In general the Roman government throughout our period [roughly 1st and 2nd centuries] had a very liberal attitude; on the whole a free Roman’s house was his castle, his labour not directed, his children not appropriated for purposes either secular or religious, and his movement and change of domicile unrestricted.”

    Don’t blame the Romans! It’s what came later that was the problem.

  9. Sounds like good news. The issue is that the Tories love lording it over the rest of us just as much as ZaNu Lab. In addition to obnoxious control-freakery Lab put out lots of law to give favoured status to their various client groups. In this “bonfire of regulations” it seems that the Tories might well bonfire regs that their business cronies don’t like and leave laws that oppress the rest of us alone. What happened with the Freedom bill and Bonfire of the Quangos should give any real friend of freedom pause.

  10. What a good article, I agree with every word of it. I just wish we could persuade our “elite” of it. I suspect though that it will take more than words to change their attitude, they are enjoying themselves as the “masters” too much.

  11. There is a huge gap in the market for a party whose only programme would be to promise to reduce the amount of regulation by half.

  12. May I suggest – ‘And providing that there is not already a perfectly good existing law already covering the target of the legislation’.

    Much legislation has been brought in purely to enable ‘the right result’ in court because it is ‘too difficult’ to achieve with the existing Statutory or Common Law variety.
    e.g. Enacting a law against nattering on a mobile phone when driving, when ‘driving without due care and attention’ has been on the statute books since forever.

    All such should be consigned to the scrapheap.

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