Sunday, October 11, 2009

Law of the Future at HiiL


The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) held its third annual conference on the Law of the Future at the Peace Palace last week. The conference brought together a range of academics, policy wonks, and practitioners to focus on the question:
In this era of globalization, does the ever-increasing complexity of political and socioeconomic relations require that a new equilibrium be sought with respect to public-private cooperation in shaping law and governance?
After a series of talks by high theorists like Gunther Teubner and general counsel like Peter Wakkie we broke into separate workshops on private actors and self-regulation, corporate social responsibility, the millenium goals, and the financial crisis and regulation.

My workshop was the financial crisis and regulation subject. Even with the contribution of invaluable input from members of the European Central Bank, various competition authorities and other institutions, there was a feeling that the tension between what politicians needed to be seen to be doing might well conflict with longer term goals in stabilizing the financial sector.

There were those who thought a rebirth of trust and legitimacy would suffice along with enlightened self-interest--a minority view. Others thought that ordinary people should be put back at the centre of interest not the banks.

There were clear differences between the US and EU views on regulation with the EU view having a clear differentiation between macro and micro perspectives on regulation. Both, however, had difficulties with raising levels of transparency among institutions.

One item that stuck out was the "large and complex institution". This beast appeared to be untameable. Think of Goldman Sachs or Barclays now and you get the picture. These organizations are so unwieldy that different parts of them can act against others without being aware of their actions. One part buys long while another sells short. Their own internal networks seem incapable of communication, in which case how are the high executives supposed to know or to understand what is being done. Should they be tamed and how?

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More information about the conference can be found within the concept paper that preceded it and in the programme abstracts.


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