on legislation

I wrote a while back about having a simple set of behaviours instead of complex legislation, or rules, to live and operate by and I have been taken to task a little about this on the basis that we could not go back to a simpler way, but why not?

Aside from lawyers, who really benefits from all of the rules and regulations that we have surrounded ourselves with? When we talk about business using simple agreements that clearly set out who does what and by when in a business relationship how often do we actually follow that through? To me a simple agreement would be a couple of sides of A4, but even the shortest of contracts that I am asked to sign is about 20 sides and I’ve seen some that went beyond 100 sides.

My argument here is that so many of these things are completely pointless and counter productive, because I also have clients with whom I work on the basis of a handshake to conclude a discussion about what they want me to do. I see no reason at all why, given the will, we could not move to a simpler system, not just in business, but also in society.

Part of the problem is that, since the 1990s in particular, we have moved to the sort of litigious model that has blighted America for decades. I was studying commercial law back at the end of the 1980s to gain my purchasing qualification (IPS, now CIPS) and had to pass two exams. During discussion in one class we talked about injury claims and the response was that if certain claims were allowed to go rot court then it would open a floodgate of litigation that would cost millions and would, therefore, not be in the public interest. Within ten years such claims were sweeping the courts and interest costs were spiralling up. Whilst anyone could benefit from a claim, and many did, it was all of us who paid as the costs were translated into price rises.

The only people who truly benefit from regulation and legislation are the legal profession. Whilst there is a lot of nonsense talked about how rules and rights protect us all, and perhaps to a degree they do, it is the lawyers who rake in their fees who get the most from them.

Standards are different in that it helps to have standards that people can understand and work with because we have a choice as to whether or not to follow them. Standards I have no issue with, but when such things become regulated or passed into statute so that compliance is mandatory and penalties for non compliance can be applied we have gone too far. There is a basis of common law that you are innocent until proven guilty, but most of the regulation that blights business, and individuals, these days requires you to prove that you are complying: You are effectively guilty unless you can prove otherwise and that is just plain wrong in my book.

I have worked with the European Commission a fair bit over the last 25 years or so and they will openly admit that their aim is to regulate every aspect of human existence. To me that is just stupid, but also represents a totalitarian regime. Why would anyone want that?

With the UK leaving the EU I do hope that we can reduce much of what we currently face in the way of legislation. Obviously all products that we make for sale to the EU will still have to comply with their rules, but we can move away from the myriad of regulation that they have imposed and we do not have to replace that with new rules; we can just have standards instead.

I am a decentralist and de-regulator by nature. In my experience it works better that way. I know that others disagree, but let us at least have some debate rather than blindly binding ourselves so tight that we have no freedom.

Rant over.

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