Why we need simple rules? Or do we?

The paradox of choices

Ethan Young writes:

Take, for example, the planning of a wedding. When it comes to the individuals actually involved in the wedding, there will be plenty of precise decisions made about the decorations, the guests, the food, the traditional procedures, and so on. These very precise and complicated rules are made in a concentrated and voluntary manner by those immediately involved. Now, what is the role of government in this equation so that we can have the most amount of successful weddings? Should the Biden administration have an agency dedicated to approving and inspecting every single wedding for compliance with a hypothetical code of wedding conduct? Does it need specialized departments that can deal with weddings from different cultures and conduct detailed analyses on the optimal procedure of weddings? 

The answer to this rhetorical question is obviously a resounding no, and it is clear that if that were the case the conduct of weddings in this country will become tremendously more troublesome and perhaps downright dreadful having to deal with such bureaucracy. The only thing the government needs to do is ensure that contractual relationships and individual rights are enforced most likely through a system of courts and police. 

This is a brilliant blog post that outlines the central tenet of minimum governance. I read it from the perspective of “looming AI-regulation” which has the potential to impact a large swathe of people. Consider the following and then i’d pose another alternative view point.

The problem statement:

Another important area where a simple system of contracts and private association would be beneficial is labor relations. The current system has a sprawling litany of rules regarding things like minimum wage, healthcare requirements, promotions, dismissals, and so on. Now, this isn’t to say that unions and the demands that they advocate for shouldn’t exist, but they certainly shouldn’t be federal law. The current system not only makes operating a business extremely complicated, which hurts both management and labor, but it also favors established large businesses that can afford to comply with all the regulations.

The proposed solution (as per the author):

A superior system to the current sprawling expanse of labor regulations is to simply enforce contracts made by employees with employers. Allow individual workers and companies to create these arrangements for wages, healthcare, job security, and other requirements on their own. Allow labor unions to engage in back and forth discussions with management, so that provided violence is not used, the government need not care about the results. Every company has individual needs and preferences which are then balanced against the needs of its workers. In a competitive and open market, employees who do not feel accommodated may leave for other companies which in turn creates incentives to treat workers better.

The alternative sounds much better in “theory” because it hasn’t been tested out in the “capitalist” class. Even with the current onerous regulation, companies like Apple, Amazon and Google escape with blatant abuse around “non-disclose agreements” and contractual laws that serve the interests of the companies more than individual workers. A utopian fantasy relies on individual trust, while the real world operates on information asymmetry. Medical professionals routinely deal with complex medical discussions, especially around the treatment choices. While there are “socio-cultural” issues, some users may delude themselves with the idea of “knowing”. Similar issues can crop up when AI becomes “mainstream” and there is a clamour for collected “raw-data” and ownership. Assuming the state of regulations plays out, assuming end-users will enter into contracts with hospitals to gain access to their individual data, it will complicate navigating the already complex bureaucracy around patient healthcare delivery.

This is a “legal research” question that requires careful ethical deliberation around “felt-needs” and a “greater common good”. However, it is also a point to ponder for all the readers.

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