George J. Stigler, “The Theory of Economic Regulation”

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter discusses George Stigler’s “The Theory of Economic Regulation,” a stinging analysis of regulation from a political economy perspective. Published in 1971, Stigler’s paper challenged the idea that regulation is designed and operated primarily for the benefit of business, rather than solely to advance the overall public interest by correcting market failures. By offering a serious take on regulatory capture, “The Theory of Economic Regulation” changed the way economists analyze government regulation while exerting tremendous influence on a variety of disciplines such as public policy. Stigler’s chapter also sparked extensive research on business–government relations across a wide range of industries, from airlines and mining to banking and manufacturing.


George Stigler, The Theory of Economic Regulation, political economy, business, regulatory capture, government regulation, public policy, business–government relations, industries

Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Public Policy and Administration