Some companies are happy to thumb their noses at regulations. Some businesses complain but have given up on looking for change.

Donald Trump had said that he would wage war on small-business regulations. Apparently, regulations on government itself are also under target and an announcement this week put some particularly crazy ones on the chopping block.

There are people who reflexively say that regulations are bad as a default, despite the damage we've seen over the years from a lack of regulation in key places. The financial services industry is one example, where too little regulation -- or call them protections, a term some Democrats are trying to push to change the instilled reaction of many in the country -- enabled a global financial crash.

However, it's as crazy to say there are no useless or even damaging regulations as to insist that a good one cannot be found. And, in its general march on regulations, the Trump administration has found some doozies, as initially reported by Bloomberg:

Year 2000 Memos - M-99-09, M-99-12, M-99-15, M-99-16, M-99-17, M-99-21, and M-00-01: All seven of these policies set out requirements and implementation guidance for agencies on planning for potential IT disruption related to the Year 2000. These policies are now obsolete and outdated, as the Federal government was successfully unaffected by any service interruptions. As a result, OMB is rescinding these memoranda because the deadlines for implementation have passed.

Yes, it's really talking about Y2K. A quick reminder: the Y2K problem involved programs that stored two-digit representations of years in databases. When the year changed from 1999 to 2000, the result was unpredictable but could have, in theory, caused massive disruptions. People laugh about it now as virtually nothing happened, but that was only true when one institution after another poured money into checking all their systems for the problem. The only reason things were calk is because billions of dollars went into ensuring peace and stability.

The government has lots of computers and displayed no more foresight than any other organization. Of course agencies had to comb through their systems. But that was only a problem until the clock turned to January 1, 2000. Systems that were fixed were fine. Any that displayed problems could then be adjusted.

But it's been 17 years since we had the big bang. This was a case of regulations having been put into place at a time when they were necessary and then never removed from the books. It was a regulatory automaton still on sentry duty even though a filing of "we fixed that years ago" could have been cut and pasted from one report to another.

There is some crazy stuff that happens in government. I remember back in 2010 writing about an oddity at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Old computer systems could accept patent applications that had been faxed over, but if a page were flipped top to bottom so it came in upside down, the application was sent back with a note to orient the pages in the right direction. Apparently the software wasn't able to do that automatically -- although it could figure out that the image looked like it was upside down.

Apparently the Y2K examples were brought up as a way to inspire agencies to review what they were doing, as those particular requirements were often ignored in practice. See? Who says that no one has any common sense in government?

Published on: Jun 16, 2017