To me, economics is the study of how to best manage human covetousness so that the least amount of harm is allowed to be perpetrated. Of course, it is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses and emphasizes the importance of realizing that there are no “solutions” in this world, only tradeoffs. The first rule of politics is then, of course, to ignore what economists say, because what economists say is usually not politically useful for politicians. Time is not on my side, since there are many other subjects such as genetics and quantum computing I would also like to delve into, and I am not getting any younger. Videos produced by, for, and because of the more erudite amongst us are a great way of getting the gist of the great body of work already done by experts in their respective fields. What prompted this post is a video from the three-part series, three parts as far as I can tell, called “Testing Milton Friedman” from the “Free To Choose” network, sub-headed “Government Control“, embedded here.
If you don’t have the appetite for the full video, the portion I am referring to for this post is here. “Free to Choose 1980 – Who protects the Consumer? – Regulations“. That short clip is embedded here.
I was wondering at the debate in the “Testing Milton Friedman – Government Control” video concerning the ever-expanding voluminous amounts of legalese. Aren’t lower-level regulations in the body of the legal framework and structure of any nation, province, and so forth also subject to being removed in similar fashion to how they were enacted? How is it that removing or modifying the lower-level regulations and so forth is perceived as being so difficult? When I mention “lower-level”, I take reference from a 2016 document from the “Electoral Foundation for Electoral Systems” or IFES. There is a diagram on page 2 which I modified and place here. To me, the Constitution and Principles are the foundation, the bedrock, upon which all other legislation and so forth are based. I don’t think any nation would have an ever-increasing set of Constitution and Principles, but will, over time, naturally generate more and more statutes, legislation, regulations, procedures and codes of conduct, just for a simple list. Is it not obvious that at least regulations, procedures and codes of conduct be able to be produced, removed and modified according to how well they express the underlying Constitution and Principles? For example, to me, there are basically only two Principles which may be expressed in a Constitution in some detail, and they are “Love thy God with thy all” and “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. Everything else derives from these two and are simply the enormous variety of ways they are expressed in varying contexts and at different times. They are answers to the simple question “What does manifesting the two principles look like, sound like and feel like?”
Over time, as a nation develops a feel for, and grasps what higher-level Principles, often well embodied in that nation’s formational Constitution, actually mean in everyday life, the number of lower-level statutes, legislation and so on can actually be decreased. In Kublai Khan’s empire, the number of lower-level regulations actually decreased over time. Even the number of capital offences was reduced, and in some years, there was no record of executions, presumably because there were none! Did that mean that Kublai Khan had egregiously departed from the principles laid out by his grandfather Genghis Khan? Genghis Khan’s descendants did give up the principle that the Great Khan was to be himself subject to Genghis’ “Great Law” after only about fifty years, but in most other respects continued to adhere to its tenets. We can take many pages out of the Mongols’ book where the laws of a nation are concerned, I trow.
The penchant for keeping regulations and lower-level laws, whether active, dormant or as a sneaky available tool of statecraft, such as “Internal Security” types of laws, is really an indicator of how insecure a nation feels. It is similar to the current obsession with gathering ever more voluminous amounts of “data”. Perhaps this is due to advances in our understanding of how the genome works, and having a desire to be able to work like that. I have a previous post on my takeaways from “The Four Dimensional Genome”, and I say that we would be better served by adhering to Constitution and Principles, legislating only as much as would serve our nations best, and not go overboard trying to imitate how the genome works. Go for Principles. Stop regulating ourselves to death.