Wednesday 3 June 2015

Government Regulation Gone Wrong?

A 2013 report showed France to be quite the bureaucracy- it claimed that over 400,000 directives were being enforced, ranging from how far a postbox is allowed to stick out of a wall to how much boiled egg a kindergartener can eat at lunch time. 

The examples seem petty, but more serious regulation is coming to the cost of small town and village budgets- for example a law enforced making all pavements at least wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass. 
Of course, this is not a bad idea in itself, however when Paris enforced this on every French town or village, it becomes a problem- in many cases this blanket ruling is uneconomical, perhaps if there are few disabled people in the area or few people altogether.

According to Michel Therond, mayor of 25 years of the small town Albaret-Sainte-Marie, he gets letters with new regulations or stipulation from every time he opens his mailbox.

In many cases regulation is not as disputed- regulations on the minimum drinking age, or that businesses must hire employees regardless of any disability are largely accepted by society. However this excessive bureaucracy can have damaging effects on a country’s economy- it can mean managerial-type people are employed with high wages to not do very much, it can put pressure not necessarily on the cities, but smaller town or village councils- and it does not always work.

In Mexico City, at the time of a great pollution problem (that still exists in part today) a regulation was enforced that aimed to reduce car use and thus emissions and so on. So the government created 'Hoy No Circula' (literally meaning Today it (your car) does not circulate)- a legislation that stated that cars with only cars with certain numberplates could be on the road on certain days- to bring this example to england you could say that on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, only cars whose number plates begin with letters A-M can drive, and on the other days, cars N-Z. 

In Mexico City however, this plan backfired- it’s a typical example of what is known as the Cobra Effect. Most people needed their cars everyday- to go to work, do shopping, go to places where cars were the only reasonable, comfortable way to get there. So people didn’t start walking or taking the bus on days when their car could not be on the road- instead people just bought a second car, with a plate that would allow them to go on the days they previously couldn’t- granting them car usage for the whole week. It was quite an ingenious way of avoiding the regulation.

However we must remember that most people of Mexico City were not wealthy- so the second cars these people did buy were more often than not old beat-ups- whose emissions were even worse than their first cars. The result? Not necessarily fewer cars on the road, but instead older, more polluting cars on the road. This regulation did not last long, unsurprisingly.

This was the Cobra Effect- the origins of which I’ll briefly explain in another article.

So bureaucracy can be damaging, that’s for sure. Regulation may be necessary in areas, but like all things, in careful measure.

French bureaucracy effect on small towns 

'Hoy no Circula' regulation

Lone Editor

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