Vested interests
Vested interests

Follow the money is sound advice when tracing fraud, all fraud, not just that relating to finance and mortgage backed securities (MBS). It does not take a genius to figure out that industries other than finance might want to capture their regulators. Going by this it sure looks like the FDA has succumbed:

Monsanto lobbyist uses power as FDA food czar to target Amish

Why is a former Monsanto lobbyist currently serving as the FDA’s food safety czar waging war on small dairy farms that produce fresh milk?

and

While factory farm operators are getting away with serious food safety violations, raw milk dairy farmers and distributors across the country have been subjected to armed raids and hauled away in handcuffs.

Sadly this follows an old playbook. Problem identified, solution put into place. The solution may work for a while, but eventually it is perverted and becomes a tool for something its originators would have detested. It is reminiscent of Orwell’s newspeak in which the meaning of words are changed. Anyone familiar only with the classical meaning of the word liberal would scratch their head in bewilderment at its modern American connotation. Similarly on hearing the term “progressive” they may wonder what in 2012 is particularly progressive about ideas and programs from the 1960’s or earlier.

Whole sections of our society are succumbing to this perverting tendency. The constitution is a “living document”, activist judges impose their conscience rather than the law on society, institutions created to protect the people instead persecute them. Presumably at some point the society becomes unrecognizable. If it previously enabled life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what would it then be doing?

It probably matters little what is put in place by way of safeguards. Ultimately it is people that count and we are not just fallible, but often corrupt, greedy and self seeking. Intelligent people with initiative will pervert systems to their own ends.

But how do we explain examples such as this highlighted by boingboing:

On the horrors of getting approval for an ice-cream parlour in San Francisco

The NYT’s Scott James recounts the insane red-tape endured by Juliet Pries, an entrepreneur who decided to open an ice-cream parlour in San Francisco’s Cole Valley. She had to pay rent on an empty storefront for over two years while the necessary permits were processed, and tens of thousands of dollars in fees (including the cost of producing a detailed map of nearby businesses, which the city itself seemed not to have.

I immediately jumped to the conclusion that existing businesses in the area benefited from costly time consuming regulation. They effectively increase barriers to entry into the area. The resulting reduction in competition allows existing businesses charge higher prices and make more money. Naturally local businesses are the main source of donations for local elected officials.  But as I was patting myself on the back I came across this later in the post:

The link comes by way of JWZ, owner of the DNA Lounge and the adjacent pizzeria, who notes that, “I started the process of trying to cut a door in the wall between my restaurant and nightclub in February 2011. It is now February 2012, and we still don’t have the necessary permits and have not yet begun construction. If we have a door in that wall — and are allowed to let people walk through it — before 2013, we will consider ourselves lucky.”

Oops, no pandering to existing business there. Perhaps our examples are not greasing the right palm? In some countries graft is an accepted part of getting anything done. So we are left wondering if it is government corruption, incompetence or both responsible for the delay and cost? Or is there some other alternative?

Update 10 February 2012

Of course, it is possible that to obtain the benefit of higher regulatory barriers to entry existing business also have to cop higher barriers to change. There is a limit to how blatant Council can be in this corrupt nexus. It also has the added benefit for officials of vastly increasing the potential for graft “to smooth the process”.