At the End of the Day

A Question of Trust

The question of whether to regulate or not regulate remains one of those 5% élite questions the neoliberalists love to tell us is a real – and very complex – issue: a ‘moral hazard’, a matter of opinion, and the need to show a willingness to do business.

It is none of those things. The straightforward argument runs like this:

1. The only reason we need rules is because a minority called ‘crooks’ want to disobey them in order to get an unfair advantage.

2. There is an inverse correlation between sticking to the rules and playing for money.

3. Because the crooks invent reasons not to stick to the rules, we need to employ regulators to enforce the rules and punish the guilty. (There is zero difference between this concept, and that of police officers who enforce the common and criminal law).

4. If the regulators do not do their job in terms of detecting disobedience and doing something about it, then we need better ones who are more empowered and less pedantic. The idea that we don’t need them at all is risible.

5. Regulation isn’t leprosy, it’s the surveyor who ensures a level playing field.

This is a very simple issue. If one lives in a cultural milieu which is actually an ethical mire, then one needs more and more regulation.

The only way to deregulate for the common good is to restore a culture of decency in which real trust can be placed in those striving on the playing field.

The contemporary, majority Western business ethic is, “Do whatever it takes – and if questioned, say you had to do it for the shareholders”. I need someone to explain to me why that is a better excuse than “I had to gas these people, because orders must be obeyed at all times”.

Without trust, there is nothing worthwhile in human intercourse – be it social, economic, financial, emotional or sexual. With the last two of these, unwarranted paranoia is often the dominant factor. But as for the other three, these days every transaction seems to need recourse to a hundred lawyers in order to complete it. And the hesitancy has nothing at all to do with paranoia, but rather one helluva lot to do with previous experience.

Just as there is an inverse correlation between sticking to the rules and playing for money, so too there is a direct correlation between the population of lawyers in any given society, and its level of moral decline.

We cannot revive trust with the use of 2,300 more laws and 12,000 more lawyers. This is a cultural problem totally dependent on the example being set: by parents, teachers, employers, policemen, clerics, politicians, public officials and all those other myriad people who can display either safe hands or feet of clay.