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March 15, 2007

Idiot Quote of the Day


Streamlined regulations. I agree. They can help, on occasion. But most regulation has a purpose. They are also the biggest stimulant to innovation there is in the economy. So cut regulation at your peril.

Sheesh. Innovation is driven by bureaucrats putting their oar in? So a time and place (like, say, Soviet Russia) which was bedecked with regulations about what you could do was also the most innovative?

Or a time and place (like perhaps the US or the UK) with a Common Law system,  with many fewer regulations and they concerned (as it was in the past, alas) only with what you cold not do were the most innovative?

March 15, 2007 in Economics | Permalink


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The ancient Greeks invented the steam engine, but never developed it beyond a toy because slave labour was so much cheaper.

Read into that what you will.

Posted by: john b | Mar 15, 2007 11:29:08 AM

Regulation is the process by which you get regulations. The principle of regulation can not really be argued with. However the output of the process, the assumptions and biases of those operating it can be argued. Lets all be clear about what is being argued by both sides.

Posted by: Steve | Mar 15, 2007 11:42:25 AM

Wasn't the steam engine invented during the age of the slave trade? So it doesn't appear that anti-slavery regulations are the mother of invention of the steam invention.

Posted by: Josh | Mar 15, 2007 11:46:57 AM

Slavery was explicitly banned in Britain in 1772 (R v Knowles ex parte Somersett). Boulton & Watt's steam engine company, which mass-marketised Thomas Newcomen's steam engine design as improved by James Watt, was founded in 1775.

Of course, I'm not seriously claiming a correlation between the two events - mostly because slaves were never used in the UK as a source of industrial labour (Somersett was a domestic servant).

However, I'm fairly sure it's fair to say that mechanisation in the colonies and the southern states of the US was delayed by the availability of slave labour.

Posted by: john b | Mar 15, 2007 11:55:09 AM

That website is a gem. I tried joining in the discussion of "exploitation" but didn't get very far


Posted by: Richard G Brown | Mar 15, 2007 12:34:14 PM

Ah yes, Tax Research. The site owner isn't keen on people who disagree with him.

Posted by: bishop hill | Mar 15, 2007 12:56:29 PM

Regulation a stimulus to innovation? Certainly. In the early 1990s, a lobby to EU governments materialised campaigning for the harmonisation of electric appliance plugs across the EU.

Consider the huge prospective benefits: scale economies in the manufacture and fitting of plugs to all new electric appliances sold in the the EU and reduced barriers on EU cross-border trade in electric appliances.

Wonderful. The only - and inevitably minor - objection was that the present standard ring-mains system of wiring in Britain (in which the circuit is protected by fused plugs) would become obsolete and all premises - domestic, commercial and industrial - would need to be rewired to implement the new standard plug. Of course, manufacturers of the new plugs and electricians stood to gain substantially.

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 15, 2007 3:05:58 PM

But that's got sod-all to do with innovation: the European system already exists (and is technically inferior to the UK system).

Tim adds: Weeeel, the electrician installing it in this house at this very moment thinks it's better but then what do I know about things technical?

Posted by: john b | Mar 15, 2007 3:21:36 PM

"(and is technically inferior to the UK system)"

Absolutely - but just think how harmonising the innovation would be.

The lessons to be drawn is that not all innovations are necessarily beneficial and nor is all EU harmonisation.

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 15, 2007 3:25:32 PM

I think you can read as far as the phrase "streamlined regulation" and fall about laughing.

WTF is that?

Does that means regulations will be churned out more smoothly? Does it mean that the regulations themselves will have a lower wind resistance? That's like testing regulations for alkinity or deciding that they should have a lower colour temperature.

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | Mar 15, 2007 4:00:43 PM

On the technical side, all I know is that when I forgot my European plug adapter on a visit to a Polish Electtrical Engineering building, they had UK-style sockets for the heavy-duty equipment.

Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Mar 15, 2007 5:29:29 PM

What does "sheesh" mean? More and more people are using the expression.

Posted by: L | Mar 15, 2007 6:29:15 PM

Sorry, that last comment was by me.

Posted by: Little Black Sambo | Mar 15, 2007 6:30:22 PM

One of the ways to streamline something is to make it less broad. So less broad regulations, maybe only covering one specific thing and nothing else? Like how the Common Law used to work? You know there might be something to that. The rest is just so wrong it's funny.

Posted by: chris strange | Mar 15, 2007 8:33:03 PM

"sheesh"? Perhaps "I fart in your general direction"?

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 16, 2007 3:22:40 AM