John Redwood MP has asked a series of parliamentary questions to see how well the coalition government is doing with its 'one in, one out' policy on regulation, and put the results on his blog. As the table below shows, things could be going better:
I'm reminded of one of my favourite Bastiat quotes: "Government, a vast, organized, living body, naturally tends to grow. It feels cramped within its supervisory mission. By now, its growth is hardly possible without a succession of encroachments upon the field of individual rights."
The trouble is that deregulating is much more difficult than regulating, which is why I've never been convinced that the 'one in, one out' idea would prove a particularly good one. Regulation is a serious business, and dealing with it requires a proper strategy.
Our 2005 paper Deregulation, by Tim Ambler and Keith Boyfield, proposed a nine-point strategy for fighting the regulatory state. For each main source of regulation (the EU, Whitehall, the Regulatory Agencies) you should first stem the flow of new regulation, then cut the burden of existing regulation, then try to minimize compliance and enforcement costs.
A recent McKinsey report suggested another sensible approach: review regulation sector-by-sector, and then eliminate any barriers to competition, productivity, and growth.
Done properly, deregulation should be a win-win for politicians: it will boost growth and cut the cost of the state. But it doesn't happen by itself – a real, long-term concentrated effort is needed if deregulation is going to get anywhere. Will this government succeed where so many before it have failed?