miércoles, 13 de mayo de 2015

#DigitalSingleMarket strategy: naivety as a policy-making style

The long-awaited strategy for the completion of the Digital Single Market has been one of the main topics in the media last week. Technical papers, policy-making magazines, specialised blogs, traditional newspapers, ... all of them has included a report of the presentation of the strategy, less of them has included an analysis of the contents. The guidelines of the articles that contain an analysis has been the debate on the appropriateness of including one measure or the other. For instance, american press has heavily criticised the inclusion of measures to tackle the consequences of the dominant position of internet platforms in the digital economy. I will try to take different approach that is an analysis of the policy-making style of the document.

Ambiguity is a common element in policy-making documents. Sometimes it is necessary to leave some room of manouver for the negotiation with the stakeholders in  the measures that have to be taken to solve an identified challenge. Less recommendable is the ambiguity in the definition of the challenges. This can be found in an important degree in the European Commission document. One example is the definition of the geoblocking problem. Talking about "unjustified" geblocking means that it is quite difficult to have an idea which are the cases that want to be solved.  

Certainly, ambiguity of the measures to tackle challenges is a characterization of policy making documents. I will not criticised references as "an ambitious overhaul of the telecoms regulatory framework". It is expected that the degree of ambitious will be part of the negotiation between the policy-makers and the stakeholders. What is less advisable is to renounce to policy-making and outsource completely the definition of some of the measures to be taken to the stakeholders. An example of this are the measures to be taken in order to avoid that cross-border parcel delivery works as a barrier for the take-up of cross-border e-commerce. The European Commission established that the core of this measures will be the results of a "self-regulatory exercise of the industry". 

Policy-making documents could be described in a simple way as the diagnosis of one or more challenges followed by the measures to solve them. The idea is quite simple, if you do not include measures to solve a challenge or this measures are incomplete, the challenge will remain unsolved. The Digital Single Market strategy has two main challenges to solve, the fragmentation of the European digital markets and the lagging of Europe in the development of the digital economy. The European Commission believe that there is only the need to introduce measures to solve the first challenge, because the second one will be automatically solved once the first is tackled. From my point of view, this is a similar approach to the confidence fairy approach taken by some economist to solve the reactivation of the economy that is criticised by Krugman. And usually, this approach doesn't work.

From my perspective, one of the more erroneous philosophical approaches is rousseauniasim. Unfortunately, man is not good by nature. Taking Rousseau as your inspiration for solving problems is equivalent to be almost destined to failure. The Digital Market Strategy approach have a worrisome rousseauniasim approach to some problems. The more clear example is the measures proposed for the telecom sector. Few differences are between the measures proposed and the Connected Continent packet rejected by Member States. It would be long to discuss if the Connected Continent packet was a good or bad idea, what it is out of any doubt is that only by insisting on a rejected proposal it is difficult to have the proposal approved. There is no indication why the European Commission think that it is going to be different this time. Except rousseaunism.

I have a great coincidence with the challenges identified by the European Commission in the digital area. Even I agree with some of the measures proposed in the Digital Single Market Strategy. Nevertheless, I find quite naive taking Rousseau as your inspiration for policy-making or to believe in the confidence fairy. Let us hope an energetic implementation of the strategy will solve this naivety.

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