Carnival of the Bureaucrats #6

This month’s Carnival of the Bureaucrats celebrates the rules of golf. Every year golf’s regulatory bodies receive thousands of requests to clarify rules. Golf’s rule-making cycle takes four years, much longer than typical rule-making cycles at one of the world’s leading regulatory agencies. However, official decisions on interpretations of golf rules are published every two years. The most recent decision order contained more than 1,200 individual decisions. These decisions do not discuss opposing arguments, contain no analysis of relevant empirical evidence, and provide no reasons for the rulings issued.

The regulatory environment for innovative communication services on golf courses appears grim. Wireless services vitally important to the most disadvantaged golfers have been forbidden:

14-3/14 Electronic Instrument Used to Find Ball

Q. A transmitter has been embedded in a golf ball. When used with a special radio receiver, a player may find such a ball readily because the transmitter emits a signal that grows louder as the receiver moves closer to the ball. Is the use of such a ball and receiver permissible?

A. No. Use of such a ball in conjunction with the receiver is a breach of Rule 14-3. However, use of such a ball without the receiver is permissible, provided the ball conforms to the Rules and its use is in accordance with any conditions of competition that may have been adopted (e.g., the List of Conforming Golf Balls Condition). (revised decision)

In addition, communication regulation favors the growth of non-golf related communication. Under Decision 14-3/16, golfers may use a mobile phone “for matters unrelated to golf (e.g., to call home).” More important uses of communication devices are harshly suppressed:

14-3/16 Use of Electronic Devices

…examples of uses of an electronic device during a stipulated round that are a breach of Rule 14-3, for which the penalty is disqualification, include:

· Using the device (e.g., a television or radio) to watch or listen to a broadcast of the competition being played;

· Using the device to ask for or give advice in breach of Rule 8-1 (e.g., calling a swing coach at home); or

· Using the device to access information on advice-related matters that were not published prior to the start of his round (e.g., analysis of strokes made during that round). (revised decision)

The only possible explanation for these rules is that the titans of the golf industry have not been spending enough quality time with golf industry regulators.

You might consider watching a video of prior British Open play (available soon on a variety of mobile devices) while waiting for the duffers in front of you to clear the fairway. Watching a very good golf swing is likely to activate your nervous system in a way that makes it more likely that you will execute a good golf swing immediately after watching it (more evidence). Doing this would apparently not contravene the prohibition on asking for advice from a prohibited source (see Rules of Golf, Rule 8-1).

On the other hand, under the Rules of Golf, Rule 14-3, a player “must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment: (a) That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play;…” In the near future, mobile video may not involve unusual equipment, and in modern life watching Internet videos is as natural as breathing. However, Rule 14-3 states:

The United States Golf Association (USGA) reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices and unusual equipment and make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules.

All statutory law and administrative regulation is subject to change. The crucial questions concern the political structures (institutions? interests? mentalities?) and legal processes (notice? comments? written, public reasons?) by which such change is effected. Analyzing the possibility for changes in rules is a critical, and often neglected, aspect of regulatory analysis.

While golfing, during lulls in watching golf videos on your mobile devices (if permitted under the relevant regulations), you may now be able to use a laser rangefinder to determine the yardage to the hole and associated hazards. Given widespread regulatory uncertainty, you also need to study these regulations carefully:

14-3/0.5 Local Rule Permitting Use of Distance Measuring Device

Q. May a Committee, by Local Rule, permit the use of distance measuring devices?

A. Yes. A Committee may establish a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure distance only. However, the use of devices that gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g. wind or gradient) is not permitted.

Using a rangefinder that includes a slope function is illegal. Somebody should tell Patrick.

Personal blog note: My favorite golfer is my distant relative Natalie Gulbis. The bureaucrats working at Ellis Island weren’t too concerned about accurately recording names! :)

Additional entries in this month’s carnival:

Tracy Coenen remarks, “The government is raiding our pocketbooks again!” Her FRAUDfiles Blog reports, “another tax increase is being discussed in Wisconsin,” and asks, “When has a tax increase ever put more money in people’s pockets?” Suppose a tax increase goes to support hard-working government bureaucrats who make government regulations better. If the cost of the government bureaucrats’ salaries is less than the value they create for people by making better regulations, then increasing taxes has in effect put more money in people’s pockets!

Consider some numbers. Suppose the total budget of a regulatory agency is $300 million, and that the regulatory agency regulates an industry with total revenue about $1,000,000 million. Particularly for an industry in which regulation is pervasive and highly significant, the performance of the regulator can easily be much more important than the direct tax cost of the regulator.

David Maister considers, “What’s a professional firm?” He remarks, “Should bureaucrats be called professionals?” Of course they should. Most bureaucrats are in fact professional bureaucrats. But I would not consider professional those bureaucrats who engage in conduct unbecoming of a bureaucrat.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of the Bureaucrats. Submit your blog article to the next edition using our carnival submission form. Submissions should conform to the Carnival regulations. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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