You are 100% correct. And that situation will never change.
It won't change for the simple fact that only ten web sites can physically occupy the top ten of the serps. Forever and every until the end of time will the majority of site owners remain outside, gnashing their teeth and wailing.
Large corporations can be just as inept as a small mom & pop. I have a couple small fry clients who are up against the national chains and they do exceptionally well. I've busted adwords cheaters and had them blown away so my clients could earn a decent roi.
Is it surprising that they needed to hire a professional to do it for them? No.
In any endeavour it makes sense to hire a pro to do it for you. When you need a sign for your shop, you could always do it yourself, but in all likelihood it will look inept- same on the web.
As for regulating the search engines, there was some noise [news.com.com] about it last year, August 2002, in regard to the labeling of paid listings- which didn't really affect Google because their listings were obviously labeled.