In any system of regulation, the regulators and the ‘market’ they regulate are balancing the need to protect the worst excesses of the bad side of the market with the ability of the good side to perform. In general there is nearly always protest from the ‘good’ side that they are bing contained to much and yet there ‘nearly always’ remains examples of sharp practices that are seen as inappropriate.
Take employment law. Many small employers, and I’m one of them, are actively avoiding taking on employees because it’s hard, risky, and fraught with regulation that guarantees employment rights that if enforced could cripple the business (the perception), yet still at the Queens Diamond Jubilee we heard stories of security employees being unpaid and left in the rain for hours in the middle of the night.
Have we got the regulatory balance wrong? Do we approach it from the wrong end? Rather than regulating against what goes wrong, shout we regulate for what goes right? Rather than looking for sticks to hit people with when they step out of line, should we be doing more with carrots to encourage the right approach.
Would that mean, for example in health and safety, having a mindset that tolerated a level of industrial injury, because for society as a whole the benefits of a less stringent regime outweighed the harm to the few, or do we have a mindset that accepts that things will be worse than they could be in order to minimise the accident risk to almost zero?
Rather than seeking to make doing wrong impossibly hard, should we strive to make doing the right thing improbably easy?