Friday, September 24, 2010

A rat is smelt

On the face of it, we should be delighted with the news here that a bonfire of quangos is being planned.

However, while we may be looking a gift horse in the mouth, to commit the cardinal sin of mixing metaphors, I smell a rat. Having spent more of my life energy than I would care to admit researching the theory of deregulation (so much so that I never got round to publishing), my crucial finding was that every cyclical bout of deregulation presaged a further spate of regulation.

The dynamics are so locked together that there is good evidence to suggest that each leap forward in state control actually requires a period of deregulation, that being used as the scapegoat for all government failings and thus the justification for more and greater controls.

Thus, the way the progression works is that you have a spell of regulation (with the creation enforcement and administration bodies) and then a reaction, which leads to a partial deregulation. This, however, simply acts as a step towards a new bout of regulation, giving the march towards authoritarianism a jagged, "staircase" profile.

Just abolishing quangos, therefore, is of little avail – unless you address the reasons why these bodies were created in the first place. Otherwise, all that happens is that the bodies transform themselves into different structures, but do not actually disappear (either that, or they go into hiding for a few years).

And what is not visible is any attempt to address those reasons – the root cause of excessive regulation and officialdom, which probably means that this highly publicised initiative is just window dressing.