Deregulation: it’s not the "easy" answer…

A recent article from George Monbiot over at the Guardian examines the role of government and regulation in the market and looks at the new announcement coming from the UK Health Secretary regarding “streamlining regulation” in the food industry. Fittingly the article is titled “Sending off the Ref” and makes the point that the role of government is akin to the role of the referee in football (soccer) and that the game would be very different indeed with “de-refereeing” or “self-refereeing”…

If you are interested in the specifics of the proposed changes to the UK food and health landscape, then  read the complete article — in my mind there is no question that Monbiot definitely has a bead on what will actually happen if this misguided attempt to have corporations driven by “social responsibility, not state regulation” continues unabated… Monbiot sums it up as:

“So here’s what’s going to happen. The failure of big business to police itself will cause a series of crises: in public health, social provision, quality of life, the environment. The state will have to shell out billions to put them right. Eventually (think of BSE, the railways, tobacco advertising) the government will be forced to re-regulate, but not before large numbers of people have been hurt. In the meantime we’ll be instructed to pull our socks up and take responsibility for issues out of our control. It’s an age-old story from which governments learn the square root of nothing. It happens as predictably as a punch-up when the referee quits the pitch.”

Unfortunately, he is right on the mark. Whether it is the banking industry, the oil industry, or any other profit-driven business like the food industry, the ongoing approach should not be  blind adherence and pandering  to  “deregulation” ideologies but a more nuanced understanding of the critical balancing role of regulation and oversight with profit-oriented risk-taking and innovation.

Time to focus on re-stating and re-committing to the “rules of the game”….


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