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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Clowns making laws

17 October 2019

Yesterday's column didn't produce much activity in the forums, the ones about drones seldom do.

However, I wonder if today's column will do better in that respect. It's not about drones but it is about exactly the same subject.

How does that work?

Well the core subject is the seeming incompetence of politicians and bureaucrats when they try to regulate things they simply do not understand... things that involve technology.

For some years now, the UK has been proposing to introduce strong controls surrounding access to pornography via the internet. These controls were supposed to be enacted last year but were postponed -- because they had no idea what was involved (much like drone rules).

Now they've been canceled completely.

This must surely be absolute proof that luddites should not be allowed to get involved in the drafting of rules, regulations or laws that affect tech-users.

Let's face it, your average politician is probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, or they'd have a real job. To put them in charge of drafting laws involving technology that they can only compare to "magic" is therefore a foolish plan doomed to failure.

In the case of the porn-blocking plan, well they've finally thrown up their hands and admitted defeat.

One can only wonder at how much valuable taxpayer money was spent on this folly and dispair at how it could have been put to better use in the health, welfare or education systems.

If there was even the slightest gimmer of intelligent life within the halls of power, you'd think they'd learn something from this latest fiasco. They'd learn that sometimes it's better to let those who actually know what they're doing and understand the practical limitations and capabilities of the tech, decide what to do.

But no, I strongly doubt that *any* lessons will have been learnt from this. Governments around the world still think that they know best, even when they don't have a clue what they're doing.

Of course those governments will likely say "but we consulted with experts" -- yet the sad and sorry situation is that those governments aren't even smart enough to recognise what a real expert is. They repeatedly choose "experts" that are almost as clueless as themselves or who are simply lobbyists in disguise who take the opportunity to push their own agendas under the guise of "independent advice", whilst pocketing a princely sum for the privilege of wearing the title "consultant".

So how do we fix this situation?

Well the older I get, the more I believe that we should be backing away from prescriptive regulation and legislation. Instead, the rules/laws should define the goal/objective and leave it at that. The level of knowledge, understanding and experience required to create good prescriptive regulation of anything is incredibly high... and as we've seen, that causes huge issues.

Let's take the drone situation again, since I can claim some expertise in that field.

The Canadians have it right when regulating drones of less than 250g mass. Their non-prescriptive regulations simply say "You must not endanger person or property".

Could it be any simpler?

Could their be a form of regulation with as few loop-holes?

*ANYTHING* someone might do with a small drone that endangers person or property is very clearly a breach of that regulation and can be dealt with by the law. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.

Why go into volume upon volume of listing the things that *might* cause a drone to represent a danger to people or property -- there is no need to. Such things can be published separately as a list of advisories... but the rule it self is beautifully succinct and concise.

Sadly, we don't see such clarity of vision or such intelligence anywhere else. It's almost as if politicians and bureaucrats believe that, in the case of legislation, "quantity has a quality all its own".

What do readers think?

Is it unfair to have unqualified, unskilled politicians and bureaucrats creating ridiculous laws that clearly are not fit for purpose -- because they are not even smart enough to choose the right "expert consultants" to assist in the process?

Should we be focusing on goal/objective based law/regulation rather than infinitely detailed prescriptive rules/legislation as is presently the case?

To the forums with ye!

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