I recall many years ago reading about the guy in the Philippines who decided he was personally going to legally import a car following all the rules and regulations. It was, IIRC, some kind of VW, i.e. pretty good but nothing special and cost him a few thousand dollars overseas. He wrote up his experience in the Manila English language newspaper to illustrate the pernicious effects of excessive red tape. I don’t precisely recall all the details but I know that the various mandatory inspections duties and the like cost him more than the car cost to buy and ship and that even after a year he still couldn’t actually register it and drive it legally.

Mind you every single bureaucrat he dealt with pointed out that a little cash being spread around to grease palms would lead to immediate resolution of all problems

It seems to me that in the developed world we’re getting to a similar place regarding regulations but the little people simply can’t bribe their way around them, you have to be a large corporate entity to buy up the politicians to do so. Take housing. While there are plenty of skills in doing it quickly, efficiently and effectively, pretty much anyone can build themselves a house. Indeed in the slums and favelas in the third world people do so all the time. But here in the developed world there are all sorts of additional road blocks put in the way. Some of these are sensible – in a land subject to earthquakes, say, it makes sense to require a certain amount of foundations, fire-proofness and so on for houses in close proximity simply because the collapse and then catching fire of one badly built residence can easily cause massive damage to neighboring buildings that otherwise would be relatively unscathed. However, many rules are written so that they apply not just to dense urban housing but to houses located miles away from the nearest village or where the rules are nonsensical in other ways.

Perhaps worse every building scandal (where some builder has saved a chunk of change by building something unsafe) or natural disaster seems to lead to more regulations being passed that make it harder and harder to build an affordable home – no doubt many will be added in the light of the Grenfell Tower fire, and you can bet most of them will apply equally to one storey bungalows and 50 storey tower blocks. It is very far from clear to me that these rules save lives, protect from fraud or provide any other benefit at all. Currently amongst my friends on facebook I have one (Dave Freer – linked above) trying to build a house on a literally greenfield site in rural Tasmania and being driven mad by the various rules and regs that are intended for places that are nothing like where he is but which apply nationally. I have another in the US who was unable to find a way to buy or build a house in the area he’d like for a sensible price and, relatedly, International Lord of Hate best-selling author Larry Correia is being delayed in the building of his mountain fortress by the requirements of the local authorities to review and approve everything. Finally, as if to prove that the rules don’t work, in the UK I have another friend who has been the victim of a “cowboy” builder called Carl Shrubshall. I don’t know the precise details of my friend’s case but the UK’s building process is so heavily regulated that in fact many people cannot afford to build extensions to their property using the official regulated process. Instead they fail to tell the authorities of their plans and find some bloke in a white van to build it for them who is paid in cash with no questions asked about wiring codes or structural integrity.

Of course it isn’t just getting permission to build things where the government gets in the way. Governments have figured out a nice line in easy money by insisting on “licensing” tradesmen to do just about anything – including, natch, building houses, but also pretty much everything from hairdressing to serving booze.

Recently governments have figured out that there is this thing called the internet and have moved applications for these bits of paper online, so that they are actual electrons not paper. Of course they have often implemented these online systems with all the attention to customer satisfaction and usability that governments are famous for (i.e. none). Hence I received the above certificate in my email this morning (the other Francis Turner may be a bit peeved because it looks like he paid for this) and you get websites where you have to click on non-existent buttons to proceed

We don’t need no stinking check boxes or “Accept” buttons

In a slight attempt at fairness, I should point out  there’s probably a requirement to click on something to get the next 10 T&Cs  before you get the Checkbox and Accept button but I’ve no idea what or where that would be.

Fortunately, in the US, some state legislatures/governors and the Trump administration, are fighting back. AZ governor Doug Ducey has been pretty active in this and he’s not alone. In Utah the legislature has passed a law that says that local municipalities must recognize the health and fire inspections of other localities [although they seem to have been a bit sloppy on the wording so municipalities can charge a “processing fee” for the amount of work they have to do to look at and stamp the bit of paper (or it’s electronic equivalent):

157 (3) (a) A local health department may only charge a health department food truck
158 permit fee to a food truck operator in an amount that reimburses the local health department for
159 the cost of regulating the food truck.
160 (b) For a health department food truck permit that a local health department issues in
161 accordance with Subsection (2), the local health department shall reduce the amount of the
162 food truck permit fee to an amount that accounts for the lower administrative burden on the
163 local health department.


Members of President Trump’s cabinet (e.g. Scott Pruitt at the EPA) and the US Congress has been pretty active too although there’s still a lot of swamp to drain in Washington DC and, as noted by Samizdata, the President took time to mention the problem in his recent speech in Warsaw:

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic our citizens are confronted by yet another danger; one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.

The entire speech seems to have gone down like a cup of cold sick with the sneering classes so this part probably didn’t really register. However it strikes me that it is something that Trump actually knows about (as a property developer and founder of multiple businesses he must have done a lot of kowtowing to self-important jobsworths) and something that he is aware will improve economic growth so it seems highly likely that in the US we’ll continue to see regulations cut. Sadly I’m sure that this will not occur on the other side of the Atlantic – a continent that could really benefit from the same.