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Government Distrust

BIAS AND UNFAIRNESS

The next section in OECD's website addresses the issue of lobbying. The OECD says:

Lobbying can contribute to good decision making and improve governments’ understanding of policy issues by providing valuable insights and data as part of open consultation processes. Yet, lobbying can also lead to unfair advantages for vocal vested interests if the process is hazy and standards are lax.

This statement is interesting because although on the surface is seems like an admission of culpability and hence a subconscious plea for trust, in reality is a statement that confuses issues. On purpose? We don't know but we do suspect so.

Consultations can be classified in two.

Dishonest consultations

We have already dealt with this issue in our previous article of this series called Distrust Governments - They Are Not Open. Essentially, the so-called "consultations" are simply pressure release valves for citizens and talking points during elections. They are not conducent to anything. Decisions have already been made without the input from people because decisions are power and politicians will not relinquish power under any circumstances. The main problem that is never addressed is that the main reason why people bother lobbying; because it is cost effective. Should these people had to do the same thing in a free market; it would be far more expensive. Through lobbying they get to have all kinds of advantages and properties while offloading the cost to citizens. What is not to like? The problem is that this process works irrespectively of honest or dishonest consultations. It is a root problem, not a surface problem. Yet, the OECD treats it as a surface problem because… they are a lobbying institution themselves! As such their interest is to keep their cushy jobs and that means supporting governments.

Honest consultations

We also addressed this issue in the same article. The main problem is that even if consultations are honest, why should one group have preference in their saying over other group. The most basic democratic tenet is "one person one vote". Special interest groups destroy this tenet by having large influences on our "representatives". In other words, their voices speak far louder than ours.

In Practice

In order to "solve" this problem, the OECD published a brochure called "The 10 Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying" and as with pretty much anything the OECD published is a gigantic waste of time. Since these principles are limited, we will also provide our limited comments. To task.

Principle #1: Countries should provide a level playing field by granting all stakeholders fair and equitable access to the development and implementation of public policies.

Although it is true that equitable access is desirable, the main problem is not access but resources. The average person simply does not have the resources to pursuit anything regardless of how accessible the information may be. The only people with such resources are…drumroll please…lobbyists! So this is pretty much pointless.

Principle #2: Rules and guidelines on lobbying should address the governance concerns related to lobbying practices, and respect the socio-political and administrative contexts.

This means that countries should review other options besides what lobbyists are presenting and pick the "best" option. The only problem is, how can countries know which option is the "best" if most of the meaningful data is provided by lobbyists? This was recognized by the OECD itself when expressed that lobbying provides "valuable insights and data". To develop options takes time and money. Average people do not have either and this leaves only lobbyists. Again, yet another pointless principle.

Principle #3: Rules and guidelines on lobbying should be consistent with the wider policy and regulatory frameworks.

The idea here is that rules governing lobbying should demand "integrity and transparency" within the general framework of public consultation and participation. In other words, when it comes to lobbying, participating and consulting everybody should play by the same rules. This is, of course, ridiculous. Again, it is a matter of resources. Lobbyists have far more, which enables them not only to have more influence but to take advantage of cracks and loopholes in such rules. Average people, on the other hand, cannot do so. Therefore, even if this would be implemented (which is not - we challenge you to find a single country with such regulations), the whole process would still be heavily biased towards lobbying. What needs to be understood here is that demanding regulations play in favour of those with resources. In political parlance, they "raise the entry barriers" to political influencing and lobbyists just love them! It keeps average people out of the game altogether. Yes, yet another pointless principle.

Principle #4: Countries should clearly define the terms 'lobbying' and 'lobbyist' when they consider or develop rules and guidelines on lobbying.

Of course, because defining something solves issues as opposed to actually solving the problem. Again, this is nothing but more regulations which lobbyists with resources just love! One more pointless principle.

Principle #5: Countries should provide an adequate degree of transparency to ensure that public officials, citizens and businesses can obtain sufficient information on lobbying activities.

Same problem as before. Access to information is not the issue, resources is. Not to mention the fact that most countries in the world do not abide by this rule. More useless principles.

Principle #6: Countries should enable stakeholders – including civil society organisations, businesses, the media and the general public – to scrutinise lobbying activities.

Ahh… yes. We were wondering when will this show up. It's always the same story. When handling a hot issue make sure you can pass it along to somebody else. Camon! This is the pinnacle of cynicism. Governments are declaring that they don't trust themselves therefore they are passing this critical function down to us. This is great! They wash their hands, outsource their efforts to unsuspected suckers, keep their apparatchiks and look very good politically speaking! And if all this would not be sufficient, because the lack of resources people can do very little to nothing. Perfect! One more useless principle for our collection.

Principle #7: Countries should foster a culture of integrity in public organisations and decision making by providing clear rules and guidelines of conduct for public officials.

Rules again. As we have shown previously, it is not a matter of rules and regulations but a matter of "government property" rights. As long as this concept remains in use, all the laws, rules and regulations of the entire world will have very little effect. Not to mention the fact that there is a glaring loophole: government "officials" always have certain discretionary power dealing with "government properties". This power cannot be fully regulated because this would transform said "government officials" in automatons. This is not acceptable by politicians because they need a certain dose of creativity in order to keep control of very creative people (that would be you and us). But if said officials can make independent decisions, this means that there will always be subjective and suspicious decisions that will be perfectly legal. More pointless rules.

Principle #8: Lobbyists should comply with standards of professionalism and transparency; they share responsibility for fostering a culture of transparency and integrity in lobbying.

In which planet? Because in this one this is most certainly a joke, and a very bad at it. Let's be clear. Private enterprise is there to make money. Period. This is the incentive they get for providing the goods and services we need. This is how it works in a truly free market and they are locked-in with no escape. In a controlled market, on the other hand, they have an escape hatch called "the government". Of course they will use this escape hatch to the full extent of their capabilities. What this principle is asking from lobbyists is to go against their primary functions. Yes… that's going to happen. Any time soon…for sure…absolutely… And the pile of useless rules keeps getting higher.

Principle #9: Countries should involve key actors in implementing a coherent spectrum of strategies and practices to achieve compliance.

Ugh…here we go again with the offsourcing. This is simply a repeat of Principle #6 with a few more useless recommendations about more "clear and enforceable rules and guidelines", "a coherent spectrum of strategies and mechanisms" including "monitoring and enforcement". But at the end of the day it boils down to this: more rules for which more bureaucrats will be require to monitor and enforce, for which they will fail miserably and the whole mess will be passed on…drumroll… the usual suspects: you and us! Great! More pointless rules.

Principle #10: Countries should review the functioning of their rules and guidelines related to lobbying on a periodic basis and make necessary adjustments in light of experience.

Right! This means what you think it means. This means that government watchers and enforcers who failed to watch and enforce get to figure out what went wrong and fix the problem. Sure. That makes a lot of sense. Incompetent people fixing their own incompetence… Come to think about that could be a great description of government bureaucracy! And then people asks how is such-and-such gigantic screw-up possible… And we are done with useless rules!!!

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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