I am indebted to comic strip "smbc-comics.com" for educating me on what
"regulatory capture" means. In particular the following strip.
The wikipedia entry for "Regulatory Capture" (20/1/2012) reads...
The idea of regulatory capture has an
obvious basis in that vested interests in an industry have the greatest
financial stake in regulatory activity and are more likely to be
motivated to influence the regulatory body than the dispersed
individual customers, each of whom has little particular incentive to
try to influence regulations. When regulators form expert bodies
to examine policy, these invariably featured current or former industry
members, or at the very least individuals with contact in the industry.
That this strip happened on 19th January is probably not
coincidental. It is the day wikipedia went on strike about SOPA.
Coincidentally it is also related to attempts by the NSW government to
use regulation to limit dual membership of local and state
November discussion paper "Dual Roles, Councilors as Members of
Parliament" is here
or search here
I would like to make the following comments on
"DUAL ROLES: Councilors as Members of Parliament in NSW".
All references are to the November 2011 discussion paper.
At item 3.1 it is stated that there are three tiers of government. That statement glosses over the fact that in Australia, councils are completely under the control of State governments. This is exemplified by the Queensland government's recent action of dissolving all Queensland local councils and reformulating them at half the number. Another example is the way the NSW government has seized and permitted over development of large (commercial) projects against the wishes of the local government area. Example in my local area are the redevelopment of the Brewery site in Broadway (to higher density housing), and the redevelopment of the Paddington Women's hospital (into a housing estate). I am sure that other districts have similar tales of the State government intervening to permit commercially sensitive overdevelopment.
An alternative narrative of the facts is that Australia has two tiers of government, Federal and State, and that the state government has local area management departments (Councils) that have locally elected directors. This appears to be implicitly recognised in the fourth paragraph.
The Federal Labour government is apparently planning a referendum to consider giving local councils recognition in the constitution. If this eventuates and puts an end to state government micro management of local councils it is to be applauded, and I would reconsider my opposition to this initiative.
At Item 5.1 It is suggested that there might be a conflict of duties. A weak argument. I am more concerned that party affiliation would produce a conflict of duties. Queensland's action of consolidating councils reduced the percentage of independent councilors and produced a greater proportion of Labour dominated councils. If the government was really worried about conflict of duties it should legislate to further subdivide councils, which would most likely result in independents being elected. In any case, questions of conflict of duties are best left to the voters.
At Item 5.2 It is suggested that "it might not be easy to know who to complain to. ". This is also a weak argument, because the appropriate person to complain about local government would be the minister for local government. I might feel more concerned that there would be bias if both local council and state elected officials belonged to the same (or opposing) political parties.
At Item 5.3 it is stated that "It's not practical for one person....". This argument could be leveled against the whole Westminster system, where department heads are also members of Parliament. Is the paper suggesting that we should follow the US Presidential model, and have the chief executive appoint department heads from outside the Parliament? Again, I believe that such judgments are best left to the voters.
At Item 5.4 "It is not equitable". This is a good argument to actually encourage members of parliament to be appointed to local government councils.
At Item 5.5 "Blurs responsibility" of which employee has what duties. This is actually the strongest argument so far presented against dual roles. Perhaps an ethics commissioner should be appointed to advise members on these issues.
At Item 6.1 "Democracy in action". I have used this argument above in 5.1 and 5.3.
At Item 6.2 "Best person for job" is another good point which was not immediately obvious.
At Item 6.3 and 6.4 "Increase advocacy and efficiency" are actually quite weak as I would expect them to only apply haphazardly and in a minority of cases. For instance I would expect that influence would be magnified more by party affiliation than by any other factor. Efficiency increases are hard to quantify.
At Item 7.1 Agreed. There is no conflict of interest.
At Item 7,2 "Office of Profit" The issue of double payment could most elegantly be solved by legislation that prohibited double payment, rather than by using the sledge hammer proposed.
And back to the original point. This is another example of
"REGULATORY CAPTURE" although in this case it is the regulators (i.e.
the politicians in
power) who plan to benefit from the regulations.
Reporters without borders produces a "press freedom index" across the
world on an annual basis.
Australia and the USA are rapidly rising (= becoming more restrictive)
in the press freedom index. This is ascribed by the group to
restrictions placed on reporting the "occupy" movements.
Australia went from position 18th to 30th. The USA went
from 20th to 47th.
It looks as though other heads than mine have seen the dangers these
movements presented to the ruling "elite".
Copyright holders have the solution to copyright piracy within their
grasp. It is just that they are too greedy to adopt the solution.
Essentially, they are charging too much for electronic copies. At
around 99 cents, most people will buy a book or tune (given a
practicable, cheap method of making that payment). At around $10
in the USA most people are happy to buy a paperback. That allows
$9 to the printer (which might be exorbitant, but seems
reasonable). In Australia that same paperback costs around
$30. That high price in Australia (caused by import restrictions)
was a sop to the printing industry (unionists and owners). What
that high price has done is drive most bibliophiles to sites like
bookdepository.com, which will deliver most books for less than half
the local retail price with no transport charges within a couple of
It is unreasonable of the copyright industry to request government to
impose draconian regulations & penalties (such as summary closing
of websites) and then require the expenditure of taxpayers money to
investigate and prosecute those who break those regulations.
People like Mr Dotcom should be prosecuted within the existing
framework by the copyright owners. Quite apart from the fact that
they only exist because of the exorbitant prices charged by the MPAA
and similar copyright organizations.
I am sure that the MPAA and their cohorts would argue that creative
film/music/writing production requires huge markups because of the
extreme risks and high costs incurred in film/music/writing
production. On the other hand, I would argue that films can still
charge a premium for a theater showing, but if they charged 99 cents
per download, they would eradicate the business plans of the "Mr
Dotcoms" of the world. Likewise musicians would benefit by either
giving away or charging 99c for their music and making their living
from live performances.
Such a business model will work. There is quite a large number of
quite good web comics (XKCD, SMBC) that seem to make an adequate
living from the advertising carried on their sites. As a taxpayer
I resent the use of government funds spent prosecuting the victims of
corporate "copyright greed".
Copyright and patent laws were first introduced so that an artist could
benefit from his creative efforts. In those days, the charge was
quite reasonable, and the 20 year limitation gave sufficient time for
an author/inventor to put his text or ideas into production (probably a
few years) and then another year or so to advertise and distribute
it. As printing and manufacturing became faster and cheaper and
the population expanded, the copyright should have become cheaper and
the time shortened. Due to "regulatory capture" (see above) the
opposite has happened.