0fe2520046f86fa80b8b9803_pa3299c.jpg Paul Lachine

In Regulation We Trust?

A free society requires a high degree of trust to reduce the burden of monitoring and control, and trust requires internalized standards of honor, integrity, and fairness. But, with the steady encroachment of market logic in areas traditionally governed by non-market norms, the language of trust has been replaced by the regulatory language of "accountability" and "transparency."

LONDON – From next year, on swearing allegiance to the Queen, all members of Britain’s House of Lords – and I am one of them – will be required to sign a written commitment to honesty and integrity. Unexceptionable principles, one might say. But, until recently, it was assumed that persons appointed to advise the sovereign were already of sufficient honesty and integrity to do so. They were assumed to be recruited from groups with internalized codes of honor.

No more. All peers must now publicly promise to be honest. Only one had the guts to stand up and say that he found the new procedure degrading.

The trigger for imposing this code of conduct was a scandal over MPs’ expenses, which rocked Britain’s political class for much of 2009.