A new go at upgrading the stock of regulation

A particularly grotesque example of many things, only marginally related to the red tape busting agenda.

This post is worked up from a comment of mine on this Mandarin post on a new submission to the Thodey review intriguingly written by two Treasury officials in their own name.

It’s an interesting and (my guess is) productive contribution. Interesting also that people are being allowed to make submissions, though it would be useful to understand the extent to which these comments were cleared by their agency made more explicit. I am (again) guessing that suggestions that were not consistent with Treasury’s priors wouldn’t be welcomed as personal contributions.

It’s also worth noting, I think that this is an ‘in principle’ recommendation, rather like the original regulation review which was implemented in 1986, took nearly a decade to achieve more than the most desultory compliance in form, and has never been widely complied with in substance. So some examples of how it has worked in New Zealand would have been useful.

More fundamentally, the submission continues to partake of the old approach in which we see regulation review as being focused on minimising avoidable costs of regulation. That’s an important task. Why do we not also seek to optimise the benefits of regulation? Why does this require no oversight of the kind proposed in the submission? Secondly the submission doesn’t interrogate the way in which the current problems are really the product of the existing incentives in the system?

As we know (don’t we?) regulation review doesn’t work largely because line agencies see it as their role to ‘get up’ regulation for their minister. So they tick the boxes, but regulation review is very rarely an objective look at the problem looking for least cost/most benefit solutions. That’s not what ministers want and so it’s not what they get.

I suspect that, while it might have some benefits, the real question is the extent to which they would be limited by these kinds of conflicted incentives and what might be done about them.

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One Response to A new go at upgrading the stock of regulation

  1. paul frijters says:

    hahahaha. You are lucky you don’t work at a university. I doubt I could get away with adding a picture like the one you use!

    Agreed on the content of the article. A related problem is that it is too easy nowadays to write and legislate more regulation, which gives the bureaucrats the idea they are achieving something.

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