Reframing Democratic Governance
Chapter 6: The regulatory space and the law
Adam Smith considered many of the functions of regulation as 'too trifling' for further discussion. He seems to have taken this rather dismissive attitude for two main reasons. First he underestimated the extent to which individuals in society would become dependent on the skills and knowledge of others in leading their daily lives. For example, in his day many people were probably able to make their own rough judgement about the condition of their own legs or a horse as their means of transport. In our time we rely every day on both operators and regulators to make expert judgements on our behalf about the safety of the transport systems we use. Secondly, he seems to have considered the issues raised by the law to offer more fundamental insights into the origins of our desire for justice and fairness in society than regulation. He referred to regulation as simply belonging to the 'police' functions of government. However, as was mentioned earlier, in his analysis of the law Adam Smith identified the importance of law in handling issues where there was an emotional distance between what affects us closely and what does not. In modern theorizing what he saw as emotional distance has been termed 'relational distance'. It can refer to physical distance, or generational distance, or educational distance, or to infrequency of contact - particularly face-to-face contact - or to temporal distance.
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