My 2 Cents

Let’s make a case for eliminating all regulatory agencies. They’re necessary, but tend to be useless. So for the sake of efficiency and better allocating taxpayer resources, all nations should do away with regulators. Especially since nowadays, Wall Street easily can, and does, rule every aspect of our lives. To expand on this new crusade, I’ll be using the U.S. as an example, but it’s valid for any country.

Here are the facts as reported by the major media outlets:
The New York Times reported, “Corporate profits are at record levels... Executives reap bigger paydays, even as wages have stagnated. Meanwhile, the widening investigation into stock-option backdating reminds us that the corporate malfeasance era was much more than just a couple of bad apples … it seems almost unbelievable, then, that corporate America would pick this moment to beg for relaxed regulation … through agency rule changes.”

The Miami Herald reported that two FCC commissioners (regulators of telecommunications) delayed the possible merger between Telcos AT&T and Bell South, accusing the antitrust division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) of failing to protect consumers by approving the $80 billion merger of the two large Telcos. Of course, AT&T was annoyed by such interference.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an AT&T executive complained, “…industry issues should not be solved putting conditions.”

We have now reached a point where a regulatory agency (the FCC) is complaining about the uselessness of another supposed watchdog agency (the DOJ). The FCC was then itself stopped by a Philadelphia appeals court from further eroding the rules on media-ownership regulations. According to the twisted FCC view, “consolidation is in the public interest.”

I imagine that all of you have taken notice that the words, “compatibility,” “standardization,” “interoperability” and “universality” no longer apply to the modern world, and now you know why.

Today, we live in the midst of  “inoperability,” “proprietary” and “obsolescence” — all in the name of “deregulation,” “free market,” “market-knows-best” and “liberalization” — all elements that, in effect, contribute to rendering the regulators useless.

In this new world, citizens and taxpayers have only one right: be a consenting consumer. The more confused, abused and overcharged, the better.

In order to put all this into perspective, imagine living in a place where home electrical outlets need to be changed according to the device plugged in. Or imagine not being able to use your telephone receiver because the line is set for tone and you have a pulse (rotary) unit.

It’s unimaginable because in every country all those household electronics were standardized when regulators regulated.

But in a world where regulators are useless, we find ourselves with as many power adapters as there are devices: PCs, cellular phones, digital cameras, video cameras, and so on. Today, an individual could be carrying around a minimum of five different adapters.

We have computers that are not compatible amongst them, devices that are rendered obsolete every 12 months, and spare parts not available for two year-old units. Plus: HD-DVD discs that don’t play in each other’s players, streaming media technology galore, computer files which cannot be exchanged — all incompatible.

Reportedly, in the absence of regulators, technology companies aren’t motivated to seek interoperability because “there is more to be gained by keeping consumers corralled inside fenced-off ecosystems.”

This state of affairs, of course, ultimately comes down to the absence of a real political power, which has been subjugated to Wall Street — and not only in our business.

It is sufficient to look around and see the same unregulated, messy situations in all sectors. For example, when I threatened to report American Airlines’ abuses to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the authority that should regulate the airlines, their response was equivalent to a laugh. After all, what the heck could the FAA do to American Airlines? The FAA itself is conscious of its uselessness and, thus, hasn’t even bothered to respond to my complaint.

Then there is the recent case of a sleeping Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allowing the rental car company Hertz to be “pilfered” by a group of speculators.

At the Federal level, the U.S. has a total of 64 independent regulatory agencies with annual budgets ranging from $1.1 billion (for the SEC), to $6.9 billion for the FCC.
They extend, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission — which is, among other duties, supposed to assure toy safety — to the Office of Government Ethics. The food sector alone has five U.S. agencies, and they still couldn’t prevent E.Coli and salmonella epidemics (consolidation also contributed to that problem).

In terms of the Federal government budget, those 64 agencies account for an average expenditure of $256 billion per year. By subtracting this amount from the tributes paid by those who file tax returns, each Federal taxpayer would be saving $2,000 per year: a sum much higher than the value that those 64 Federal regulatory agencies collectively offer U.S. consumers.

Dom Serafini