Monday, October 20, 2008

Regulation and Regulators

Having been surprised by McCain/Palin's adoption of more regulations, I have to write and say whoa.

The problem is not just regulations. That might have been true in 1980 but the world has learned and moved on.

We learned from Nixon that wage and prices cannot be controlled. At least not in the Seventies - during World War Two is/was a different story.

We live in a global economy. We learned that in Anderson decades ago - as GM lost market share to the Japanese automakers and UAW workers saw their jobs shipped off to Mexico. Regulations meant as control do not work well when what is being controlled can be affected by other countries.

So we have to decide what can be regulated. The financial/economic meltdown of the past month shows one area that needs regulation: financial transactions affecting the multitudes need a watchdog to oversee their fairness. Food is another area we need inspections.

We need federal regulations for a national problem. We cannot rely on the New York Attorney General to protect the whole country.

I find this paragraph in 2-4-6-8! Time to overregulate! from contains a pithy description what we need in a regulatory system:
I think this is a very good time to strip down our regulatory system to its bare bones and rebuild it into something more effective: streamlining regulatory authority, refocusing it on systemic risk and giving it the power to pursue those issues more effectively, purging the overreliance on single models that make things more convenient for the regulators, and figuring out how the hell Basel II went so deadly wrong.
We knew that we needed a regulatory system even when Republican ideologues were calling for an end to the Food and Drug Administration and ending Department of Agriculture inspections of meat. (Did anyone else think of The Jungle during the Chinese milk crisis?)

The writer above focuses on the regulators. We ought to have learned from the savings and loan debacle that while we could cut regulations we could not leave unenforced the remaining regulations. Obama recognizes this difference between just writing regulations and having an effective regulatory system. Hard to tell that McCain knows what an effective regulatory system would be.

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