Against Common Regulatory Frameworks

Publish date:

One thing you can always count on is that as geographic scope of businesses and finance grow, someone will call for the harmonization of the relevant legal and regulatory structures. Roger Ehrenberg blasts that familiar horn today, calling for "common regulatory frameworks" in order to minimize regulatory arbitrage and cut down on the "immense friction [involved in] operating regulated businesses across markets due to different rules and standards.” Felix Salmon applauds him, and calls for even more of the same. Somehow this is meant to be a lesson from our current credit crisis.
This is a terrible idea. Competing, conflicting regulatory frameworks may not be as efficient as an ideally-designed comprehensive system but it avoids many of the mistakes and oversights of the kind of harmonized regulatory framework we are ever likely to get. The availability of exit and avoidance, experimentation and local checks on corruption and capture are under-rated sources of regulatory strength. A harmonized system with do away with the nimbleness we praised earlier, and there’s little reason to suspect we’d get a system better able to catch abuses, fraud, waste and errors than that we have now. Less abstractly, if none of the regulators saw our current credit crisis coming, how would having a common framework have helped them avoid it?
We wrote about this ages ago in the context of European takeover law, and what we said still applies: let a thousand regulatory regimes bloom.
What has the Credit Crisis Taught Us? [Information Arbitrage]
Dreaming of Regulatory Cooperation [Portfolio]