Quality of Regulations

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 5, 2001 | Go to article overview

Quality of Regulations


If only men were angels, then we would need no laws or regulations governing or restricting the behavior of people or organizations. However, because humans are self-interested actors, we rely on laws and regulations derived from a social contract to ensure our security from one another for fear of our lives degenerating into a state of savagery where, as Thomas Hobbes said in Leviathan, "life is nasty, brutish, and short".

While rules and regulations serve the noble policy goals of promoting national security, preserving social order, preserving public health, protecting the environment, and promoting public welfare, excessive and unnecessary regulations are also subject to the law of diminishing returns.

It seems that a balance needs to be struck between insufficient regulations overseeing the smooth operation of the marketplace and overreaching government regulations inhibiting economic activities. Korea is no exception. In the midst of its economic restructuring drive, Korea's regulation-prone foreign investment regime needs to be streamlined and reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the principles set forth in the Korean Constitution, whose aim it is to promote a free and liberalized economic regime based on creativity and ingenuity.

A review of Korean regulatory laws and regulations reveal that many of them are either in conflict with the spirit and intent of the Constitution, unreasonable, or just downright unfair. If the regulation in question makes no sense or lacks in logical justification and results in unfair treatment of one party over another without reason, then the policy goal will not be attained. It will only result in an enormous waste of administrative man- hours and unnecessary burdens placed on aspiring businesses, domestic and foreign, and hardworking taxpayers, which eventually undermines the competitiveness of Korea.

The root of the problem can be traced back to two factors. One, the politically-motivated decisions of vote-seeking, irresponsible politicians favoring one constituent group over another, who also happen to be responsible for the enactment of laws. Second, the lack of expertise and experience of bureaucrats, who are constantly rotating to different posts, and the differing interpretations of laws and regulations by the various government agencies.

What are the requirements for establishing a reasonable and effective regulatory system? A reasonable regulatory system should ensure that its laws and regulations are consistent with the constitution, that it is well- balanced and does not reach too far nor too short of its intended objective, that it makes sense and is applicable to real life situations, that it is equitable in its treatment of a class or group, that it is transparent so that it minimizes arbitrary enforcement by officials concerned, and that it efficiently addresses the concerned parties' problems. The satisfaction of these factors will ensure a reasonable and effective regulatory system that enables the people and businesses concerned to exercise their creative abilities to the greatest extent possible. …

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