Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More on regulation

Seems to be the theme of the week: the place of government in our lives is on everyone's mind, I imagine, if only subconsciously. Maine is a particularly good place to think about this, with its tradition of independent, self-reliant people. Even transplants get the strong feeling that the beauty of the state, while not exactly exempting Mainers and their visitors from compliance, at least makes the laws of Washington seem not so consuming. (So too with worries, petulance, 5-year plans, shaving, dressing up, the blues.) The other night at an editorial dinner I sat next to a biophysicist from Johns Hopkins by way of Mexico City and Bowdoin College. He vacations every year up by Blue Hill and told me that somehow Maine has got the right balance between public and private. There are a lot of reasons for that - Maine is small and governable for one - but the best one is still the ability to walk out on a cold, bright day like today, through the woods, along the shore, and know that these healing places will not be given up to despoiling progress without long, hard fights, the people working with and against their officials as necessary.

Financial regulations need the most healing. Can we not get the folks who require those voluminous and impenetrable monthly and quarterly and annual reports to take a walk in the woods and re-think the whole mess? I guess they think that burying the average investor in paper will prevent the despoilers from ill-doing. But of course the complexity of regulations merely makes it easier to get around them. For my part, I've taken to trucking the mass of paper up to Maine to start fires in the wood stove, and thus have the pleasure of watching them go up in smoke.

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