Public registers defend and extend property rights by allowing contracting parties to be sure of whom they are dealing with. They make many crimes impossible and deter the remainder by making criminal investigation much easier. The importance of registers cannot be overstated. The government has a duty to provide the legal framework in which commerce, property rights, and the rule of law can flourish, and registers are a vital part of that framework.

Although public registers have a long and successful history, modern technology has enabled significant advances in their utility. However, uptake has been slow because:

  • Government lacks the motivating impulses of the free market, so it is always last to adopt new technology;
  • Although government will often use technology to do things faster, it lacks the vision to use technology to do things better;
  • Career politicians are unwilling to promote innovations which, although immensely useful to their electorate, do not translate into extra votes;
  • Politicians are timid in the face of bogus privacy objections.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove