"I'm not sure of the historical reasons, other than following the UK model, but I can see there might be advantages in having a process that's at arm's length from government - the theory is that the community can benefit from the collective wisdom from the relevant professions (who tend, in my very limited experience, to dominate the process), industry, government and consumers and protects the process to some extent from political interference. I don't know if there's any way of comparing how effective and efficient a relatively open system like this compared to a 'command' system which applies to the way standards are organised in some countries where government takes direct responsibility for standards.
"There are other areas where broadly similar arrangements apply, e.g. professions are generally responsible for setting and enforcing their own standards of conduct and practice.
"Requiring people to pay for standards is a way of funding the secretariat at the core of the process without government having to involved - though bear in mind that most of the work gets done voluntarily through a combination of self-interest and altruism (e.g. industry combining its good citizenship while making sure decisions are to its liking, academics and consultants positioning themselves while making sure that the public good is served by the application of scientific principles and their own particular expertise). I'm guessing the privatisation of SAI global was a way to raise capital to expand the training side of the business.
"Not having all standards available on-line is a bit of a pain, but anyone who really needs to access them would be able to do so through their local library if the can wait a few days though that may not be much of an option for people in remote areas).
"PS. Thought experiment. Can you imagine what the first government-sponsored standard on LATM might have looked like?" I could add to this response that there is a trend overseas towards making the results of all government-funded research "open access" i.e. freely available. Standards are somewhat different, but I am inclined to agree that it is a bit irksome to have to pay for what you are obliged to know in your professional practice.
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