It’s just as well Moses wasn’t a lawyer or, in the modern sense, a regulator. Had he been, we would have at least 4,673 commandments and enough tablets to sustain a French surgery for a week.
I have been somewhat cheered in recent weeks by a number of articles in the national press commenting on the extraordinary density and proliferation of regulation, particularly in the areas of taxation and corporate activity.
What is this urge to prescribe, why this explosion of instruction (often ill written or simply unintelligible)?
I seem to recall various political parties, here and elsewhere, promising to address the issue – and they have delivered nothing meaningful as far as I am aware.
Quite the contrary. They continue to oversee scribbling and re-scribbling.
In some locations (Brussels inevitably suggests itself), such activity is perhaps viewed as evidence of good government – though not the thing itself – and efficient organisation.
Voters, including those who chose not to vote, have at least made their thoughts clear. Do the rule writers think the rule takers are fools?
I imagine so, but in future they may need to develop a better honed instinct for self-preservation in those corridors where deflation stalks.
A challenge: can any of you readily recall a public market benchmark or procedure that has not been rigged by bankers in recent years? Answers on a postcard please, you won’t need a page of A4.
The price of standards
And while the powers that be in these august institutions lecture their staff on proper behaviour and their institution’s high standards, they seek mammoth sums from shareholders to pay fines and legal costs, and no doubt themselves.
They won’t be getting my clients’ money.
Another challenge: confess, dear reader, has any among you not sat in front of an internal corporate missive from on high in recent years and thought it patronising, inane drivel?
Do let me know. I have seen and heard some stunning examples and would like to augment my collection.
Sadly, if you persist in treating people as idiots, they will eventually, in some way or another, start to behave like idiots, even if they have a PhD in nuclear physics, have written an exquisite monograph on Proust or even fought in the third crusade.
Fortunately for all, I am leaving shortly on one of my periodic retreats to the valley of the Lot.
I hope to find it in better nick than of late – not that it seems to make much difference among the ripening vines.
Rupert Caldecott is a fund and private client manager at Dalton Strategic