OFCOM, OFWAT, OFSTED… ad nauseum. There they are, on the news, the regulators. Government agencies all. But do we need them?
This thought came to me this evening as i was contemplating the freedom of the internet. There are constantly calls in the media manufacturing consent for the regulation of the internet. Apart from anything else, I thought, this is inefficient. Surely the internet should be like gas and electricity, just something else to be piped into your home. You want it, somebody sells it to you, what you do with it is up to you. If your child gets electrocuted, it isn’t the electricity company’s fault, it’s your own stupid fault for letting your kid near the toaster, and likewise if your child accidentally watches animal porn that’s your damn fault too. It doesn’t need regulating.
Then it hit me.
The electricity company is regulated, and so is the water company, and so is everything else.
Now, I’m not for letting large companies run wild. Personally I don’t think that the tyranny of huge monopolies providing essential items would be any better than the tyranny of a government that owned the means to provide those services. In fact, I consider that apart from differing processes within the two the outer thing would be very much the same. So there obviously should be checks and balances, but I’m not sure that letting the monolithic state run the regulation is any different from letting the state run the things in the first place. Both are unnaccountable to the people.
So: you don’t want price fixing among the energy companies? Fine, it’s a civil matter. People start campaigns all the time, and they are more than capable of taking large companies to court. You don’t need the state to employ huge departments of watchmen.
Encouraging these sorts of citizen’s organisations could have other benefits too. There is a lot of debate about flouride in tap water, but can you imagine OFWAT ever punishing water companies that did it, no matter how much public opinion were against it? Of course not, all the while pushing flouride was Official Government Policy then OFWAT would permit it; a citizen’s campaign group would have no such obligation. So long as they could show, in court, that the water company had a monopoly and was acting against the wishes of its captive audience, and the court was thus empowered to order the company to cease, and award damages if neccessary, then the system would work, without the need for vast armies of civil servants. The debate about flouride would be academic… as long as the people don’t want it, they wouldn’t have to pay for it.
The state only needs to provide courts of law, the rest the people can and will work out for themselves.