Saturday, 8 June 2013

Legal Clock-Watching - Niall Ferguson suggests US Lawyers are worse than the British

It's only anecdotal, but still a strong observation from a reasonably reliable academic, historian and economist. Namely, Niall Ferguson.

Having started and ran various businesses in both the US and the UK, in an article here for the WSJ he does a bit of a compare and contrast. A number of pithy comparisons were made including making the observation that arranging health insurance in the US is a very real botheration. But what I found interesting was his observation on dealing with the lawyers. He said:
"As an academic, I'm just an amateur capitalist. Still, over the past 15 years I've started small ventures in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the process I've learned something surprising: It's much easier to do in the U.K. There seemed to be much more regulation in the U.S., not least the headache of sorting out health insurance for my few employees. And there were certainly more billable hours from lawyers."
The second very important thing to make note of in this Ferguson essay is his remarks on the gamut of legislation that is holding back businesses and making economic growth hard.
"Why is it getting harder to do business in America? Part of the answer is excessively complex legislation. A prime example is the 848-page Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of July 2010 (otherwise known as the Dodd-Frank Act), which, among other things, required that regulators create 243 rules, conduct 67 studies and issue 22 periodic reports. Comparable in its complexity is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (906 pages), which is also in the process of spawning thousands of pages of regulation. You don't have to be opposed to tighter financial regulation or universal health care to recognize that something is wrong with laws so elaborate that almost no one affected has the time or the will to read them."
Full article in the WSJ here.

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