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Regulation of business activity is nearly as old as law itself. In the last century, though, the use of regulation by modern governments has grown markedly in both volume and significance, to the point where nearly every facet of today’s economy is subject to some form of regulation. When successful, regulation can deliver important benefits to society; however, regulation can also impose undue costs on the economy and, when designed or implemented poorly, fail to meet public needs at all. Given the importance of sound regulation to society, its study by scholars of law and social science is also of paramount importance. In this chapter, we review the state of the field by focusing on four major areas of empirical research: (1) regulatory policy making, (2) regulatory enforcement, (3) business responses to regulation, and (4) innovative models of regulation. We begin by reviewing the political economy literature on the factors that influence government regulators as well as the ways that overseers may use administrative procedures to affect decisions of regulatory agencies. We next highlight the varied empirical findings on adversarial versus cooperative enforcement styles. We then review explanations for business responses to regulatory pressures, including the range of factors influencing compliance and beyond-compliance behavior. Finally, we survey the ever-growing research literature on innovative approaches to regulation, including self-regulation, performance standards, and market-based incentives. This chapter serves both as a stand-alone account of the existing state of empirical regulatory research by political scientists and researchers from other disciplines, as well as an introduction to the authors’ edited volume that reprints a diverse collection of classic studies of regulation and regulatory processes.


Administrative law, regulatory agencies, federal regulation, empirical research, regulatory policy making, regulatory enforcement, business responses to regulation, innovative models of regulation, self-regulation, performance standards, market-based incentives

Publication Title

Regulation and Regulatory Processes

Publication Citation

Introduction to Regulation and Regulatory Processes (Cary Coglianese & Robert A. Kagan, eds., Ashgate Publishing, 2007)