Tuesday, 5 May 2015

D**khead bureaucrats

National MP Chester Borrows is getting his mouth washed out with soap by Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway.
Whanganui MP Borrows told his local paper that "d***head bureaucrats" had adopted an unbending stance to enforcing health and safety rules, which had led to growing concern about the regulations.
A farmer had been issued an infringement notice because five quad bikes helmets had each been hanging on a wall behind a bike, not on the bikes themselves.
Borrows described health and safety inspectors as enforcing sometimes "bull**** rules", at a Parliamentary select committee last week, the Wanganui Chronicle reported.
His comments have incited the wrath of Labour's spokesman for workplace relations.
I'm imagining Question Period:
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: To Whanganui MP Chester Borrows: Mister Borrows is said to have stated that the inspectors undertaking on-farm safety inspections are d*ckheads. Question for Mister Borrows: is this true?
Hon. Chester Borrows: Yes, it is true. The inspectors have d*cks for heads.
More seriously, though, MPs might want to keep the d*ckhead constraint in mind when writing legislation and regulation. Regulation and legislation can look very different when there are no officious little tyrants in any of the agencies. In the real world, regulation has to be robust to the chance that it might just get enforced and interpreted by d*ckheads, as small a minority as they may be in any particular agency.

Note too that helmets on quad-bikes are hardly panacea.

I leave you with Peter Venkman. Is there any movie that better illustrates the perils of regulatory agencies gone mad?

And the EconPop review:


  1. How could a regulation be made d*ckhead-proof through its wording though?
    You would have to give enforcers/inspectors absolutely no discretion, meaning that either there would have to be one clear, simple rule to apply and be enforced in all circumstances (regardless of the specifics of the individual case), or millions of different rules - one for every conceivable individual circumstance.
    Not clear that either would be an improvement on leaving some latitude for individual discretion and the application of common sense, accepting that yes, in some cases some people will use that latitude in ways that some others don't like. Just like when they smoke, or drink, or eat foods with too much salt, or sugar, or both, in them.

  2. It means for starters that the optimal amount of regulation is lower than if we knew all the enforcers were perfect and that we should regulate less than otherwise.

    Can also suggest moves toward principles-based regulation with decent ombudsman provisions for getting around officiousness constraints.

  3. OK, what is wrong with the following? The optimal amount of wealth is lower than if we knew all wealth was deployed in a perfectly rational way, and so we should constrain wealth creation more than otherwise.
    How can we be confident that ombudsmen won't be d*ckheads? If there is an anti-d*ckhead mechanism that can make us confident that ombudsmen will always be wise and fair, why not apply it directly to regulators?
    What I am trying to get at here is, why not tackle the cause of the failure directly - ie, deal with some regulators' attitudinal problems through better training for regulators - rather than indirect means which are likely to carry unforeseen consequences.

  4. So write some new rules to control the people enforcing some other rules you wrote?

    Rules on rules on rules. Its rules, all the way down. Keep making rules until you attain the perfect set of rules,

    OR write the original rules in such a way that the power of individuals to exploit them is minimised. Have an ombudsman whose job it is to stop people being dickheads, and let the potential dickheads worry about THEIR job.