“Self-regulation” is about hoarding wealth

21 06 2010

In this article about the “self-regulation” of business the writer lists a number of historical examples, going back to the early 20th century, of supposed regulation gone badly awry because of conflicts of interest that arose when government permitted industry to “regulate” itself.  BP is only the latest and most egregious example.

The pitfalls of self-regulation are clear. BP, which the government left to devise its own safety measures for deep-water drilling, chose maximizing profits over minimizing risk. In financial regulation, the industry-funded Financial Industry Regulatory Authority—whose board is rife with banking titans—ignored the shifty dealings of Wall Street mainstay Bernie Madoff. By the same token, self-policing credit-rating agencies had little incentive to question the faulty debt ratings of their high-rolling clients.

The article is worth a scan for the list of examples, but it mostly misses the forest for the trees – or, if you prefer, it assumes good faith where there is none.  What conservatives who advocate for “self-regulation” believe in is the preservation of political & economic elites in their positions.  One really good way to do that is to privatize the profits and socialize the risks of doing business, so they favor that.  The move toward “self-regulation” is just one of the means by which that happens.  It’s not a philosophical difference, or a difference of opinion about the “best” way to achieve regulation; it’s just a practical means to an end — keeping the rich rich and keeping everyone else’s dirty hands off “their” money.