Monday, May 25, 2009

The Regulation Game

This story is a prime example of the slipshod manner and lackluster performance of government mandated, controlled and administered regulation.

Tell me what is the point of instituting new regulations when there are not enough inspectors to carry them out? What is the point of having government oversight when there are not enough inspectors to provide it? What benefit is government regulation at all if the system can not perform the function it is supposed to?

Shhhhhhhhhhhhh, go back to sleep...

It's not really about regulation. It's not that government is any more trustworthy, any more competent that the industry itself. It's a method of control.

Now before you affix your tinfoil beanie too tightly let me explain. For almost as long as there have been businessmen there has been the (wrong) impression that a businessman is the sort of person who would sell out his own mother for the right price (or market advantage). Business, government says is incapable of regulating itself. Business has only one interest, not public safety, its greedy, money-hungry bottom line. Business is dog-eat-dog and could care less about people.

Government on the other hand is, to borrow a line from the US constitution, of the people, by the people, for the people. Government will and can force business' into compliance. So don't worry citizens, we (government) will institute the standards, we will hire the inspectors, and ensure compliance with and adherence to said standards... Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, go back to sleep.

So what is the result? Well most of the time the government sets up some sort of agency, provides offices and administration for the bureaucracy which follows. The Agency studies the problem and sets the standards and most of the time these standards are adequate to ensure safety. Then they hire inspectors and begin to provide their service.

But soon enough the government is dealing with its own bottom line. Our society expands and as it does the demand for inspections grows... It costs too much to hire new inspectors, so the ones that do exist are overworked and can not provide the superlative oversight that was promised by government in the first place.

** How many times have you heard some government talking head refer to some new system of compliance or regulation as cutting edge, or world class? How long do you think that remains the case when government is constantly trimming old programs for new in the race to meet the panic or flavour du jour?

But wait a second, the government promised compliance and regulations were in place... If there was a mistake, an act of non-compliance or something the government would have us believe that it would be taken care of by their agency and inspectors. So we're covered... right?


The inevitable result is that something does happen, as was the case with the listeriosis outbreak last year.

The company rightfully, takes it on the chin, they are after all the first line defence and the real guardian of the public welfare where it's products are concerned.

The government and inspectors get off light, in spite of having failed to provide the "safest system", as was promised. They are in the days afterward mollifyingly humble, and disapear behind closed doors or into the mind numbing duldrums of a public or royal commission to "discover" what went wrong.

When they emerge some time later they are bold and forcefull, touting a new "world class, cutting edge, industry leading, ideal standard" to be implemented immediately...

The fine print, were there to be such a thing would point out that there will be no increase in inspectors, inspections or funds to ensure compliance...

So you have it, an ever increasing set of guidelines and best practices all carefully designed to lull us into a false sense of security but which really never ensure anything other than the increase in size of government bureaucracy and controll over business.

So what if there were no government inspectors? Taking for example the lysteriosis tragedy of last year.

Well... Government inspectors didn't stop the outbreak. I believe
it was Doctors that traced the disease back to processed meats and therefore eventually pointed a finger at Maple Leaf Foods. The company owned up to it's mistake and one would assume will pay compensation to those who were affected... The company will also be the one to try to rebuild the consumer's confidence in its own standards (over and above those mandated ones), so really what would the difference be?

I'm a realist. I know mistakes are going to happen, but I know that they are going to happen with or without government regulations, and that being the case... Why bother?

The business that is free to thrive must keep it's customers happy, healthy and safe in order to do so. No government assistance is required.

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