Regulating net migration flows: the wisdom of Econ101? 

Net migration flows (about the regulation of which members of the RPI have been writing since 2017) are again a hot topic in political debate. In this latest blog, the Insights team briefly sketches out a potential, alternative way of looking at the issues: a different ‘gestalt’, based on a tradeable right to residency, which does not need to rely heavily on enforcement by coerced deportations (difficult in practice) or creating ‘hostile social environments’. Rather, it simultaneously seeks to make unlawful immigration more financially expensive and emigration of residents more financially rewarding, in each case relative to the status quo. Even in a bare bones form, it could give government three immediate ‘control variables’: the total number of rights available, the level of financial penalty for unlawful immigration, and the level of the bid-ask spread in the purchase or sale of the relevant right.

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Read more about the article <strong>Technology Tussles: The Trilemma Strikes Back!</strong>
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Technology Tussles: The Trilemma Strikes Back!

We have written before about the need for effortful and holistic thinking in the context of global decarbonisation, and about the perils of disconnecting local actions from global outcomes by retreat into a ‘net-zero in one country’ mindset. In this RPI Insights blog we highlight the dangers of partial thinking associated with indulgence of the false prophet of universal technology solution(s), blindness to potential ‘concentration risk’ and the resulting creation of systemic vulnerabilities, inadequate thinking around the physical resilience of energy infrastructure in the face of a changing climate, and reluctance to acknowledge either the regional realpolitik of the energy transition or the implicit policy tensions, uncertainties, and trade-offs around how it unfolds.

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Read more about the article Policy myopia – open your eyes (plural) and see
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Policy myopia – open your eyes (plural) and see

In a recent blog, the Insight Team highlighted the dangers of poorly constructed policies in terms of the increased distractions imposed on managers at the expense of a focus on business investment and innovation. In this follow-up, we consider recent financial market turbulence as another example of policy gone wrong. We argue that help in assessing and learning from it might lie in an appreciation of both history and the present – from the work of Adam Smith to recent developments in modern neuroscience, in particular the insights of Iain McGilchrist.

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Read more about the article The burdens (plural) of regulation
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The burdens (plural) of regulation

Policy debates about the burden of regulation have tended to focus on estimates of administrative costs imposed upon firms and have tended to rely on an assumption that simply eliminating some of the regulations (“cutting red tape”) will lead to significant reductions in the costs imposed. Here, the Insights Team take a different perspective, recalling both RPI empirical research on these issues for the UK Cabinet Office nearly 20 years ago and the earlier “Penrose Effect”, named after Professor Edith Penrose. They argue that much more substantive effects arise from poorly considered and conducted changes in regulations in consequence of their increased calls on limited senior management bandwidth available for addressing the challenges involved in investing, innovating and expanding a business.

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Read more about the article The End of Net Zero
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The End of Net Zero

The first Insights blog of the new year continues to emphasise a central theme of earlier pieces: the dangers of taking an overly narrow view of policy challenges, whether that be the result of failure to recognise wider, salient features of a broader context, or of taking unduly narrow view of target outcomes in policy responses to the challenges. The same theme is to be found in earlier RPI critiques of ‘pixelation’ in regulatory assessment, grounded in an analogy with perceptions of a digital picture which are drawn to a relatively small bloc of pixels and focus disproportionately on it, to the neglect of all else. The blog contains a striking quotation from Keynes, who was ever unpixelated.

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Read more about the article Markets versus regulation?  Drop the ‘versus’!
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Markets versus regulation?  Drop the ‘versus’!

November’s pre-conference Insights blog is concerned with the meaning of the word ‘market’. The term appears often in economic and political discourse, usually accompanied by some other word: there are references to ‘free markets’, or to ‘oligopolistic markets’, or to ‘market failure’. But what is the nature of this thing that is ‘free’, or ‘oligopolistic’, or has ‘failed’, in the latter case usually claimed in the context of some call for a deus ex machina, in the form of a regulatory intervention, to ‘fix’ the problems.

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Routine and its Limitations

Routine and its limitations’ completes a short cycle of three blogs with a common, thematic root: dysfunctions in the division of labour within governmental systems. The focus in this case is on a temporal pattern that can be observed in the evolution of some regulatory agencies or systems. It adopts Daniel Kahneman’s metaphor of System 1 and System 2 thinking, but uses it to characterise institutional and organisational, rather than individual, thinking.

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Old spectacles for myopic governments: monasteries and speculae

The latest Insights blog is concerned with narrowness of vision in economic policy/regulation and the distraction that is a contributory cause of it. It is motivated by the question: how might better institutional design counteract distraction? Features of Monasteries, Plato’s Academy and Roman Watchtowers are cited as examples of ancient institutional innovations from which insights might be gleaned.

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The Insolence of Office

The second in the new Insights into Regulation series of short blogs addresses the causes and effects of a highly dysfunctional ‘division of labour’ in government, with a focus on misdirection and distraction in the application of effort The title is taken from Hamlet’s soliloquy (“To be, or not to be …) and the notion of the insolence of officialdom was, at a later time, a repeated trope in the major works of Adam Smith.

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Climate policy – ‘Tain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

In a new series of short blogs under the thematic title ‘Insights into Regulation’, members of the Regulatory Policy Institute Research Group will highlight a particular insight, idea or perspective that is salient to some or other aspect of regulatory policy. Given the observed limitations of quantitative emissions reduction agreements, we explore the role of complementary science and technology approaches based on sharing of knowledge and know-how in mitigating relevant externalities.

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