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December 01, 2006

Reducing Bureaucracy?

Have you ever noticed that every new government makes a promise of reducing bureaucracy while they are in power? The latest European Commission is no exception. And I am sure everyone would agree that it is indeed high time bureaucracy in Europe was reduced! However, reading about the latest attempt to do so leaves me in serious doubt the this Commssion will achieve anything at all in that direction.

Recently the Germans refused to turn the new European law on 'lighters' into national law. And quite right they are. The whole point of this new European regulation is to make lighters 'child-proof' all over Europe. If you think you can write this down on one single page you don't know the first thing about European laws and regulations. It cannot be done in less than 13! First you have to define the term 'child-proof'. Not child-proof are termed all those lighters which don't look like a lighter but rather like some toy. Pretty straightforward so far.

The next pages deal with the correct process of introducing child-proof lighters into the market. Did you know that a lighter is 'an apparatus using some kind of fuel to generate a flame, which is operated manually ...' and so forth. The European Commission points out that it is usually employed to ignite tobacco but can also be used to set fire to other materials. Ignition of small children is obviously not intended, however. Therefore the lighters must pass a test to be declared child-proof.

It was this test which made the Germans draw the line in the end: Each type of lighter must be by a group of 100 children. None of the children must be older than 51 months (I wonder why?). The tests with each group must be carried out at at least 5 different locations. If the children are unfamiliar with the room where the tests take place they must be given enough time to get accustomed to their surroundings.

I wonder if it will be worthwile for manufacturers to produce lighters in the European Union at all. I also wonder how my parents coped with life 40 years ago. My father was still smoking heavily when we were small kids but we were not allowed to touch matches or lighters or play around with them. My parents left us in no doubt about this. Perhaps the quickest way for reducing bureaucracy in our lives would be to allow people to be responsible for their own lives again instead of trying to find a fool-proof regulation for everything and teaching hundreds of small toddlers how to become little arsonists!

Posted by Mausi at December 1, 2006 10:05 PM

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Allow people to think and act for their own protection? Mausi, what are you thinking of - think of all the bureaucrats in all the EU countries who would be instantly out of work and on Social Benefit!

But I'm so pleased the Germans have decided to draw a line in the sand - sadly I doubt our bureaucrats or politicians will behave as sensibly!

Posted by: The Gray Monk at December 1, 2006 03:43 PM