Thursday, January 27, 2005

Regulated and Unregulated

Scott: "Highly regulated societies are more predictable, safer and ,most of all, more desirable places to live. While this description of highly regulated society is not without its detractors, judging from the movement of peoples throughout the world, opposition to this opinion is insignificant. Very few people appear at all interested in living permanently in the unregulated regions of the world."

The assertion that highly regulated societies are uniformly more desirable places to live seems rather sweeping to me. Scott does not seem to allow for the possibility of over-regulated societies, or societies in which regulations are used to the advantage of self-interested, self-perpetuating special interests. Scott emphasizes a spectrum spanning from unregulated to highly regulated; I would say the defining spectrum is along a line stretching from societies where institutions have credibility as serving the larger interests of society to those that have lost that credibility. Is Zimbabwe regulated or unregulated? For most of the people, it is highly regulated, indeed. Only for a small, connected elite is it an unregulated candy shop.
Perhaps the most conspicuous movement of people in the world today is the emigration of large numbers of Northern Africans into Europe. Is someone emigrating from post-Nasserist, sclerotic, bureaucratically clogged Egypt to , say, Holland, really seeking a more regulated society? Northern Africa includes super-regulated (and, on the surface, predictable and safe) Libya, as well as the unregulated failed state, Sudan. The boat people phenomenon is common to both over-regulated Cuba and entropic, unregulated Haiti. The common denominator between these emigrant states is not regulated/ unregulated, but that the institutions in these states have lost credibility as serving society in an equitable way.