UK paperback


Better = Less

The author of this post at CiF about the enormous untrammelled good that “private equity” brings to society as long as it is not taxed too much, also happens to be a member of a British governmental body of whose existence I was until now blessedly ignorant, the “Better Regulation Commission”. On its website, the “Better Regulation Commission” describes its purpose thus:

To advise the Government on action to:

• reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens; and
• ensure that regulation and its enforcement are proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and targeted.

Perhaps I am missing something, but this appears to add up to minimizing regulation as much as possible. So it would seem that “Better” is now a feel-good synonym for “Less”, as in what the body might more accurately have been called, the Less Regulation Commission. No doubt Gordon Brown will soon announce that he wishes to create Better Child Poverty and Better Train Crashes the length and breadth of the country. Bill Gates will spend more billions in the cause of Better Malaria, and I will strive to do Better Work For More Money.

Do you object, supposing quite reasonably that the people appointed to decide what counts as “unnecessary” regulation and what is “proportionate” must be a panel of sage and disinterested economicalistical scholars? It is not quite thus:

The Government announced in Budget 2005 that it would establish a Better Regulation Commission (BRC) to provide independent advice to government, from business and other external stakeholders, about new regulatory proposals and about the Government’s overall regulatory performance.

Ah, so the Less Regulation Commission provides “independent advice to government, from business”, about regulation. Um, in what sense is business an “independent” source of advice on the extent to which, er, business should be regulated? Well, IANAE. And if “better” means “less”, there is no reason why “independent” cannot mean “with vested interests”. It’s all part, no doubt, of a laudable strategy to provide Better Transparency in Public Language.

  1. 1  Alex Higgins  November 4, 2007, 9:43 pm 

    “Risk-taker” is my favourite, and also least favourite, bit of business unspeak.

    I recall recently the director of the CBI praising the spirit of risk-taking, lamenting that it was being gutted by regulation and lawsuits in Britain, but happily finding it to be alive and well in the Chinese Communist Party.

    What was meant of course, was risk-taking + with the lives of employees and consumers. I would respect them a bit more if they left those words in.

    They certainly don’t mean taking financial risks, since they expect governments to coddle them at every stage.

  2. 2  Heather Yaxley  November 4, 2007, 11:41 pm 

    It would all be funny, if it wasn’t so serious and therefore, depressing.

  3. 3  Steven  November 5, 2007, 12:08 am 

    They certainly don’t mean taking financial risks, since they expect governments to coddle them at every stage.

    Yes, it’s socialism for the fat-cats, as somebody or other said. Which reminds me, how did the excellent science writer Matt Ridley come to be chairman of Northern Rock? Seems a strange career path.

  4. 4  dsquared  November 5, 2007, 10:55 am 

    [how did the excellent science writer Matt Ridley come to be chairman of Northern Rock? ]

    not so much a career path as noblesse oblige; his father (Viscount Ridley) was chairman of it when it was a building society.

  5. 5  richard  November 5, 2007, 8:56 pm 

    Chicken Yogurt seems to be suggesting that Brown is working for better freedom.

    Am I the only person who can’t help shuddering at the phrase “a new chapter in British liberty”? What chapter are we on? Is it good or bad to reach the epilogue?

  6. 6  5cc  November 6, 2007, 12:16 pm 

    I used to actually work for the DTI way back in 1997, and it was me who had to close all my section’s ‘Deregulation’ files and open new ones with ‘Better Regulation’ in the titles instead. The ‘Deregulation Unit’ became the ‘Better Regulation Unit’.

    Big change there.

  7. 7  Steven  November 6, 2007, 1:12 pm 

    Thanks for the story!

hit parade

    guardian articles

    older posts