Left vs. Right Dictators

Me on Thursday:

Any process that ignorant voters could use to decide who to trust on [banking] regulations could also be used by ignorant consumers to decide which banks to patronize. Since banking consumers have far stronger incentives to choose well on banks than voters have to choose well on politicians, how can it help to replace a possibly quite severe ignorant banking consumer problem with an even more severe ignorant voter problem?

Surprisingly to me, many commenters argued that voters do not control banking regulators – regulators are an autonomous force that choose according to their own reasons. And most who said this seemed to think it a good thing. I’d guess, however, that they wouldn’t be as eager for autonomous regulators in these five areas:

  1. An autonomous police with power to decide who was a criminal, with little oversight from juries, etc.
  2. An autonomous state religion with power to declare God’s will, and to punish those who violate God’s will.
  3. An autonomous military with power to decide when we go to war with whom, and using what methods.
  4. An autonomous “morals” agency responsible for defining and punishing sexual perversion.
  5. An autonomous censor that can ban any “unhealthy” or “misleading” books, movies, music, etc.

Why do so many support “benevolent dictator” autonomous regulators in banking, product safety, workplace safety, schools, medical devices and drugs, etc., but not in the above five areas? One explanation: traditional (i.e., farmer) societies had these five “conservative” types of regulators, and more modern (i.e., forager) societies were proud to have overthrown or constrained them in the process of becoming modern. New “liberal” types of regulators that lower the status of businesses seem much less problematic to those who see liberal-minded folks as intrinsically more trustworthy than conservative-minded folks.

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