Public choice and the regulatory role of government

15 February 2008

This article attempts to describe the formation of public choice and the role that government should play in accommodating this in its regulatory environment. The need to foster institutions arises from certain intrinsic qualities of society at large, such as the limited capacity of individuals to address public issues. Collective needs are often expressed and one of the roles of an institution such as government is to address these needs. It is assumed that government should, in the design of optimal public policy, adhere to human response and take cognisance of public choice. There is evidence that the general public in South Africa are concerned about the protection of their personal information when engaging in transactions with business enterprises and that they expect government to enforce protection. Although very strict information privacy laws exist in many countries of the international world, South Africa is still a surprising exception. Given the ostensible role of government in harnessing public choice, it is evident that the regulatory environment concerning the protection of consumer information in South Africa is not yet successfully addressed, let alone adheres to international best practices.