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Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Regulated irony

Confederation of British Industry director general Digby Jones surprisingly celebrated the report from The Better Regulation Task Force, which, to the shock of everyone involved, proposed cutting red-tape on business*. Okay, I am being sarcastic. But I wonder if Digby Jones can spot the irony contained in his statement at the release of this report.

“Applying a ‘what gets measured, gets done’ strategy will ensure that government is held to account on the delivery of its deregulatory promises.” In other words, Digby is calling for Government to be subjected to regulation, red-tape and bureaucracy in what they claim is an attempt to improve performance? Given what we know of their stance to these kind of exercises when they are imposed upon business, is this really an attempt to undermine government?

*We will see how the right-wing press responds to the suggestions that powerful people should be less bound by law in their actions. Given they reacted to suggestions that gypsies and travellers should not have so many obstacles put in the way of their development the legal sites required for them to have a place to live, can we expect a howl of outrage when business attempts to squeeze out the law in favour of profit?

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I do not think that Mr. Jones would call it irony.

A corporation has to maintain internal controls so that it knows that it is paying wages and suppliers, selling a product of the expected quality, and eventually figuring out if there is a profit to pay dividends to the stockholders.

Of course a government has to maintain internal controls so it knows that it is paying wages and suppliers, providing a service of expected quality, and eventually figuring out if there is a surplus to use for next years budget.

I would bet that Mr. Jones believes that the governmental internal controls are very poor compared to those of the commercial sector. A common if not entirely correct view on the right.

The complaint on the right is often that the external controls imposed on corporations are burdensome and counterproductive. Very often that is not case, but there are enough horror stories to keep a number of pundits writing for years.

The real irony is that one of the services the government provides is the external regulation of corporations. If the government tighten up it’s internal controls on services that will improve the effectiveness it’s of the remaining external controls on corporations.

I suspect that Mr Jones would not like that irony at all.
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