2The Regulator’s Dilemma

By Brett King and Jo Ann Barefoot

One can see an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of “central world bank” that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges, as do the national central banks. —Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, paper 2011

If there’s one area that is going to need a total, first principles rethink, it is regulation. Presently, we are in the vernacular of the software industry, madly adding “patches” to the system, trying to retrofit decades-old regulations and core systems for all these new channels, behaviours and technologies that are emerging. But the more we try to add fixes into the system, the more we get a sort of conflated banking spaghetti code—a system that threatens to lose its coherence at any time, with legacy system and platform limitations that are already decades out of date. Developed countries, in particular, have elaborate and rigid regulatory systems built in an analog era where everything was paper-based, when data was scarce and computing power was also scarce and extremely expensive. Now, both data and computing are ubiquitous and cheap, and paper is increasingly viewed as hard-to-remove friction. We need to create a whole new model for the digital age, in order both to regulate digital markets and to deploy new technology in the regulatory process.

What’s needed is digitally-native regulation. It should be designed from scratch, planted beside ...

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