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Followup to the Great PBR Debate Of Late May 2012:
The issue has been painted as being about regulating via rules, or ‘principles’. This is slightly misleading. I claim that ‘principles-based regulation’, in practice, will still lead to rules. Arnold Kling in the original post even cited common-law in defense of why his approach doesn’t violate rule of law. Well, ‘common law’ results in…rules. It’s just that they are constructed/settled/discovered via a different process. Either way you get ‘rules’, the question is how you get them and where they come from.
Stripped to basics, PBR advocates are suggesting that rules should be made-up by bureaucrats. Leaving aside that (as I think Foseti would agree) that’s more or less what already happens, it should be understood that this – and not a whole different way of regulating that somehow avoids ‘rules’ altogether – is what is being advocated.
Those taking (kinda-sorta) the other side of the debate from myself appear focused on making sure rules are enforced. Sure that’s nice, if the rules are good and important. But how about also trying to make sure bad rules don’t exist, and can be pruned? Who, if not me, is going to speak up for averting bad rules? In theory (haha) the way this works in a democracy is that those who make rules are accountable to the people, and are forced to defend them logically, in the open. However much that theory is perverted in practice, to openly advocate that unaccountable bureaucrats make-up rules as they go along, guided only by ‘principles’ that are hopelessly vague even when the person putting them forth is trying very hard not to make them vague, can do nothing but make this situation worse.
If rules are transparent and out in the open, then it seems to me we have a better chance of staving off the bad ones. Perhaps that’s a pipe dream. But if you want to convince me of that, acting like you don’t care at all if rules are stupid (or, aren’t aware they can be), just that they ‘succeed’, is not a good way to get there.
Of course, none of these are new or original concepts. I shall not be able to recapitulate 60+-year-old Hayek writings in a blog format. The main point I wanted to make is, it’s depressing that one would even have to.
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