🗳️ a very regs to riches policy agenda
Thank you so much for reading “regs to riches” this year.
Some readers know me only as an author through this Substack, or as a scowling avatar on Twitter. I feel lucky to be able to think out loud and in the open, and to connect with you to have my thinking challenged and refined (and I love it when people email me!) 💌
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This year, I pumped out 39 posts (this is the 40th) that touched on the fascinating relationships between public policy (“regs”) and the innovation ecosystem (“riches”). I’m obsessed with good public policy because it is the software of society, and I am committed to keeping this Substack free and accessible to everyone that shares that interest.
So what the hell am I doing typing all the time? I try to always go beyond the default of problem admiration and point to concrete ideas or steps to make things better. That’s the name of my game: being relentlessly useful, creative, and productive with a wildcard streak. I fundamentally believe that modest policy change can absolutely be meaningful, and that we need way more space for “radical incrementalism” to build a responsive regulatory system that reflects the world as we know it today. That’s innovation (too), baby.
In reviewing my posts from the year, a few themes come to mind:
The first is that policy people should always “shop their closet.” I’m a big fan of making sure we are actually using the tools that we have before rushing off to create new ones. This could mean borrowing distance sales legislation from the 90s and applying it to ecommerce, or recognizing that so much of contemporary video gaming for children is technically an unpaid internship. It could also look like investigating the growth of pseudo-credentials in personal fitness.
The second relates to “hangover” legislation. Maybe we need bug bounties for this kind of regulatory hacking, but sometimes legacy legislation screws us over in the present day, like legislation from 1991 that leaves people that pay out of pocket for a health consultation (like online) in a consumer protection lurch.
Third, we do a terrible job scrutinising our hometown heroes - Canadian companies. We are great at “othering” Big Tech firms, but fail to think seriously about what major regulatory questions could actually mean for Shopify, Loblaw, the Bay or Canadian Tire. This is bound to bite us in the butt. Canada needs to do a better job navigating the tension between modern policy and the favour of legacy companies.
The fourth is just the realisation that a lot of my intellectual championship is consumer-centric with an accountability bent. Most of the time, I am just pointing out ways that we can elevate the public interest in a digital economy and keep things fair. I’m big on the basics of transparency, choice, and explainability. Like, can we just make sure it’s an option for people to pay with cash?
So what do I hope for in 2023? I think we should at least label self-preferencing and give people the ability to opt out of personalised pricing schemes. Consumers deserve a basic and better knowability of the algorithmic marketplaces that they are forced to navigate. We could crack down on junk fees, take on the subscription economy, and have a formal inquiry into the relationship between prices, profits to overcome the immediate barrier of market study impotence. Oh, and private label brands are weirdly deceptive. What else? It annoys me when a major newspaper doesn’t seem to properly disclose how they moderate their subscription price, and that we hold online influencers to a higher standard than disclosure norms in film and television. Surprising even myself, I got super into the links across culture and competition, while freaking out about Freshii and dreaming of a more transparent ideas economy.
⭐ This year, my top-three most-read posts were about Cineplex, the online news bill, and goofy credentials at gyms:
💕 But my personal faves were about data-driven cultural content and algorithmic pricing:
What else? A common refrain in policy land goes something like, “there is no silver bullet.” Yes, contemporary policy making grapples with complex, ‘wicked’ problems. But sometimes there actually IS “one simple trick” that could make things that much better. Again, smaller stuff that’s just smart policy totally counts on the innovation scoreboard. Let’s not be shy about pursuing those interventions. Let’s rush to get them done.
I also know that as a policy community, we need to do a way better job properly listening to the pain points that people and businesses face. That will require effort and creativity, too. But we can work on that together.
Finally, I want to say that if you have a little bit of policy power and can champion any of the ideas from this blog and get them a little closer to reality, please do. Go, girl! I’m also here to help. Send me a note - you can also just reply to the newsletter in your inbox.