From the annals of regulatory idiocy . . .

One of the problems of mechanisms of ‘regulation review’ – for instance the requirement for new regulations to be accompanied by regulation impact analysis, is that this constraint is itself regulation – it’s regulation of the regulators. An infinite regress beckons. I’m not against this kind of thing, but it does need to be implemented with some understanding of what it is. One of my favourite illustrations of this the following section of a transcript describing an exchange between me and the Federal Office of Road Safety many years ago (in 1994 or 95).

Industry Commission: Why do you specify that the compliance plates must be metal when there are now products – such as self voiding plastic – which would be cheaper and more effective.
FORS: Its not that easy. We would have to do a regulatory impact analysis and that takes time and resources we dont have.

Here’s another (pdf) one I’ve just found.

The Paperwork Reduction Act, subsequent OMB regulations, and OMB draft guidance require that agencies complete a lengthy process to obtain an OMB control number to survey and request information from the public. This requirement is interpreted by most agencies to include voluntary online surveys, polls, and other applications that are intended to improve customer service.

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14 years ago

Zeno’s paradox applied to bureaucrats, what’s not to like?

The fundamental problem is that civil service works by applying rules. Anyone mindlessly following rules is safe from taking responsibility for any consequence because they didn’t do anything, the rules did. Since rules can never entirely replace thinking, this approach is doomed to produce stupid outcomes, but thinking and personal initiative would require someone take responsibility (i.e. reward for success and penalty for failure) and this breaks the cardinal rule of all — no civil servant shall be any colour other than grey, and no civil servant shall leave behind any identifying feature in any way, shape or form.