Could regulatory compliance be an IT competency?

Even if you feel that we have far too many regulations, there’s something to the idea that compliance should be done well

Code of Federal Regulations
Coolcaesar (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Some people object to any and all forms of regulation. Back in February 1996, Grateful Deadlyricist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow published “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” in which he advocated self-regulating the Internet via individualized adherence to the golden rule of reciprocity (treat others as you would like to be treated).

Other people clamor for more regulation. They might be supporters of the USA Freedom Act who want to rein in the government’s collection and analysis of purportedly private communications, or they might be people who worry that the prone-to-excess financial sector will once again crater the economy.

Most people, though, view regulation as a necessary evil that adds cost, slows things down and reduces innovation. They concede the need for some regulation, but in general they think we already have too many rules.

In the business world, there are very few people who embrace, much less celebrate, regulation. My fraternity brother at Dartmouth, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric and at one time the head of President Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, is worried that regulations are hurting the American economy.In GE’s annual letter to shareholders, Immelt has written that “the number of ‘major regulations’ — regulations with more than $100 million in impact — has exploded in the last few years.”

It’s easy to understand Immelt’s point. Regulations cover just about everything, it seems. In his seminal work Rulemaking: How Government Agencies Write Law and Make Policy, Cornelius M. Kerwin concludes that “we are now as much a nation of rules as we are of laws.” Regulation is so pervasive, it takes a daily publication of the U.S. government, The Federal Register, to document it all. Created by the Federal Register Act of 1935, The Federal Register contains executive orders and proclamations, proposed new rules and proposed changes to existing rules, final rules, and notices of meetings and adjudicatory proceedings. It’s not light reading.

If you don’t care to read regulations themselves, you can read about regulation. A rich and growing literature has emerged from business schools, law schools and university political science departments addressing regulation, usually casting it in a negative light. Scholars here and abroad (See Cass Sunstein, After the Rights Revolution: Reconceiving the Regulatory State; Michael Moran, The British Regulatory State: High Modernism and Hyper-Innovation; and Cindy Skrzycki, The Regulators: Anonymous Power Brokers in American Society) claim that we are living in a regulatory age in regulatory states suffering from regulatory creep, capture and failure. Sunstein, who left academia to serve as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, explains that “between the New Deal and the 1980s the United States witnessed a rights revolution — the creation by Congress of legal entitlements to freedom from risks in the workplace and in consumer products.” These rights are secured via regulations. Despite periodic spurts of deregulation, we still have a lot of regulations and a lot of regulators.

To continue reading this article register now

  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon