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Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory, these types of rules exist in various fields of biology and society, but the term has slightly different meanings according to context. For example:



Regulation in the social, political, psychological, and economic domains can take many forms: legal restrictions promulgated by a government authority, contractual obligations (for example, contracts between insurers and their insureds [1] ), self-regulation in psychology, social regulation (e.g. norms), co-regulation, third-party regulation, certification, accreditation or market regulation. [2]

State-mandated regulation is government intervention in the private market in an attempt to implement policy and produce outcomes which might not otherwise occur, [3] ranging from consumer protection to faster growth or technological advancement.

The regulations may prescribe or proscribe conduct ("command-and-control" regulation), calibrate incentives ("incentive" regulation), or change preferences ("preferences shaping" regulation). Common examples of regulation include limits on environmental pollution , laws against child labor or other employment regulations, minimum wages laws, regulations requiring truthful labelling of the ingredients in food and drugs, and food and drug safety regulations establishing minimum standards of testing and quality for what can be sold, and zoning and development approvals regulation. Much less common are controls on market entry, or price regulation.

One critical question in regulation is whether the regulator or government has sufficient information to make ex-ante regulation more efficient than ex-post liability for harm and whether industry self-regulation might be preferable. [4] [5] [6] [7] The economics of imposing or removing regulations relating to markets is analysed in empirical legal studies, law and economics, political science, environmental science, health economics, and regulatory economics.

Power to regulate should include the power to enforce regulatory decisions. Monitoring is an important tool used by national regulatory authorities in carrying out the regulated activities. [8]

In some countries (in particular the Scandinavian countries) industrial relations are to a very high degree regulated by the labour market parties themselves (self-regulation) in contrast to state regulation of minimum wages etc. [9]


Regulations may create costs as well as benefits and may produce unintended reactivity effects, such as defensive practice. [10] Efficient regulations can be defined as those where total benefits exceed total costs.

Regulations can be advocated for a variety of reasons, including [ citation needed ]

The study of formal (legal or official) and informal (extra-legal or unofficial) regulation constitutes one of the central concerns of the sociology of law.


Regulation of businesses existed in the ancient early Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. Standardized weights and measures existed to an extent in the ancient world, and gold may have operated to some degree as an international currency. In China, a national currency system existed and paper currency was invented. Sophisticated law existed in Ancient Rome. In the European Early Middle Ages, law and standardization declined with the Roman Empire, but regulation existed in the form of norms, customs, and privileges; this regulation was aided by the unified Christian identity and a sense of honor regarding contracts. [12] :5

Modern industrial regulation can be traced to the Railway Regulation Act 1844 in the United Kingdom, and succeeding Acts. Beginning in the late 19th and 20th centuries, much of regulation in the United States was administered and enforced by regulatory agencies which produced their own administrative law and procedures under the authority of statutes. Legislators created these agencies to allow experts in the industry to focus their attention on the issue. At the federal level, one of the earliest institutions was the Interstate Commerce Commission which had its roots in earlier state-based regulatory commissions and agencies. Later agencies include the Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Civil Aeronautics Board, and various other institutions. These institutions vary from industry to industry and at the federal and state level. Individual agencies do not necessarily have clear life-cycles or patterns of behavior, and they are influenced heavily by their leadership and staff as well as the organic law creating the agency. In the 1930s, lawmakers believed that unregulated business often led to injustice and inefficiency; in the 1960s and 1970s, concern shifted to regulatory capture, which led to extremely detailed laws creating the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Regulation can be assessed for different countries through various quantitative measures. The Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance [13] by World Bank’s Global Indicators Group scores 186 countries on transparency around proposed regulations, consultation on their content, the use of regulatory impact assessments and the access to enacted laws on a scale from 0 to 5. The V-Dem Democracy indices include the regulatory quality indicator. [14] The QuantGov project [15] at the Mercatus Center tracks the count of regulations by topic for USA, Canada, and Australia.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Externality</span> In economics, an imposed cost or benefit

In economics, an externality or external cost is an indirect cost or benefit to an uninvolved third party that arises as an effect of another party's activity. Externalities can be considered as unpriced goods involved in either consumer or producer market transactions. Air pollution from motor vehicles is one example. The cost of air pollution to society is not paid by either the producers or users of motorized transport to the rest of society. Water pollution from mills and factories is another example. All consumers are made worse off by pollution but are not compensated by the market for this damage. A positive externality is when an individual's consumption in a market increases the well-being of others, but the individual does not charge the third party for the benefit. The third party is essentially getting a free product. An example of this might be the apartment above a bakery receiving the benefit of enjoyment from smelling fresh pastries every morning. The people who live in the apartment do not compensate the bakery for this benefit.

In the United States government, independent agencies are agencies that exist outside the federal executive departments and the Executive Office of the President. In a narrower sense, the term refers only to those independent agencies that, while considered part of the executive branch, have regulatory or rulemaking authority and are insulated from presidential control, usually because the president's power to dismiss the agency head or a member is limited.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Financial regulation</span> Rules or restrictions for financial institutions

Financial regulation is a form of regulation or supervision, which subjects financial institutions to certain requirements, restrictions and guidelines, aiming to maintain the stability and integrity of the financial system. This may be handled by either a government or non-government organization. Financial regulation has also influenced the structure of banking sectors by increasing the variety of financial products available. Financial regulation forms one of three legal categories which constitutes the content of financial law, the other two being market practices and case law.

Economic interventionism, sometimes also called state interventionism, is an economic policy position favouring government intervention in the market process with the intention of correcting market failures and promoting the general welfare of the people. An economic intervention is an action taken by a government or international institution in a market economy in an effort to impact the economy beyond the basic regulation of fraud, enforcement of contracts, and provision of public goods and services. Economic intervention can be aimed at a variety of political or economic objectives, such as promoting economic growth, increasing employment, raising wages, raising or reducing prices, promoting income equality, managing the money supply and interest rates, increasing profits, or addressing market failures.

Bank regulation is a form of government regulation which subjects banks to certain requirements, restrictions and guidelines, designed to create market transparency between banking institutions and the individuals and corporations with whom they conduct business, among other things. As regulation focusing on key factors in the financial markets, it forms one of the three components of financial law, the other two being case law and self-regulating market practices.

In general, compliance means conforming to a rule, such as a specification, policy, standard or law. Compliance has traditionally been explained by reference to the deterrence theory, according to which punishing a behavior will decrease the violations both by the wrongdoer and by others. This view has been supported by economic theory, which has framed punishment in terms of costs and has explained compliance in terms of a cost-benefit equilibrium. However, psychological research on motivation provides an alternative view: granting rewards or imposing fines for a certain behavior is a form of extrinsic motivation that weakens intrinsic motivation and ultimately undermines compliance.

Government failure, in the context of public economics, is an economic inefficiency caused by a government intervention, if the inefficiency would not exist in a true free market. The costs of the government intervention are greater than the benefits provided. It can be viewed in contrast to a market failure, which is an economic inefficiency that results from the free market itself, and can potentially be corrected through government regulation. However, Government failure often arises from an attempt to solve market failure. The idea of government failure is associated with the policy argument that, even if particular markets may not meet the standard conditions of perfect competition required to ensure social optimality, government intervention may make matters worse rather than better.

Regulatory economics is the application of law by government or regulatory agencies for various economics-related purposes, including remedying market failure, protecting the environment and economic management.

In politics, regulatory capture is a form of corruption of authority that occurs when a political entity, policymaker, or regulator is co-opted to serve the commercial, ideological, or political interests of a minor constituency, such as a particular geographic area, industry, profession, or ideological group.

A regulatory agency or independent agency is a government authority that is responsible for exercising autonomous dominion over some area of human activity in a licensing and regulating capacity.

A self-regulatory organization (SRO) is an organization that exercises some degree of regulatory authority over an industry or profession. The regulatory authority could exist in place of government regulation, or applied in addition to government regulation. The ability of an SRO to exercise regulatory authority does not necessarily derive from a grant of authority from the government.

Industry self-regulation is the process whereby members of an industry, trade or sector of the economy monitor their own adherence to legal, ethical, or safety standards, rather than have an outside, independent agency such as a third party entity or governmental regulator monitor and enforce those standards. Self-regulation may ease compliance and ownership of standards, but it can also give rise to conflicts of interest. If any organization, such as a corporation or government bureaucracy, is asked to eliminate unethical behavior within their own group, it may be in their interest in the short run to eliminate the appearance of unethical behavior, rather than the behavior itself, by keeping any ethical breaches hidden, instead of exposing and correcting them. An exception occurs when the ethical breach is already known by the public. In that case, it could be in the group's interest to end the ethical problem to which the public has knowledge, but keep remaining breaches hidden. Another exception would occur in industry sectors with varied membership, such as international brands together with small and medium size companies where the brand owners would have an interest to protect the joint sector reputation by issuing together self-regulation so as to avoid smaller companies with less resources causing damage out of ignorance. Similarly, the reliability of a professional group such as lawyers and journalists could make ethical rules work satisfactorily as a self-regulation if they were a pre-condition for adherence of new members.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is an independent agency of the Government of Canada reporting to the Minister of Finance created "to contribute to public confidence in the Canadian financial system". It is the sole regulator of banks, and the primary regulator of insurance companies, trust companies, loan companies and pension plans in Canada.

Health law is a field of law that encompasses federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the health care industry and its patients, and delivery of health care services, with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional issues.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Food safety in China</span>

Food safety in China is a concern relating to agriculture in the world's most populated country. China's principal crops are rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton in addition to apples and other fruits and vegetables. China's principal livestock products include pork, beef, dairy, and eggs. The Chinese government oversees agricultural production as well as the manufacture of food packaging, containers, chemical additives, drug production, and business regulation. In recent years, the Chinese government attempted to consolidate food safety regulation with the creation of the State Food and Drug Administration of China in 2003; officials have also been under increasing public and international pressure to solve food safety problems. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang said, "Food is essential, and safety should be a top priority. Food safety is closely related to people's lives and health and economic development and social harmony," at a State Council meeting in Beijing.

Economic law is a set of legal rules for regulating economic activity.Economics can be defined as "a social science concerned with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services." The regulation of such phenomena, law, can be defined as "customs, practices, and rules of conduct of a community that are recognized as binding by the community", where "enforcement of the body of rules is through a controlling authority." Accordingly, different states have their own legal infrastructure and produce different provisions of goods and services.

Regulatory competition, also called competitive governance or policy competition, is a phenomenon in law, economics and politics concerning the desire of lawmakers to compete with one another in the kinds of law offered in order to attract businesses or other actors to operate in their jurisdiction. Regulatory competition depends upon the ability of actors such as companies, workers or other kinds of people to move between two or more separate legal systems. Once this is possible, then the temptation arises for the people running those different legal systems to compete to offer better terms than their "competitors" to attract investment. Historically, regulatory competition has operated within countries having federal systems of regulation - particularly the United States, but since the mid-20th century and the intensification of economic globalisation, regulatory competition became an important issue internationally.

A private attorney general is an informal term originating in common law jurisdictions for a private attorney who brings a lawsuit claiming it to be in the public interest, i.e., benefiting the general public and not just the plaintiff, on behalf of a citizen or group of citizens. The attorney may, at the equitable discretion of the court, be entitled to recover attorney's fees if they prevail. The rationale behind this principle is to provide extra incentive to private attorneys to pursue suits that may be of benefit to society at large. Private attorney general suits are commonly, though not always, brought as class actions in jurisdictions that permit the certification of class action lawsuits.

Command and Control (CAC) regulation finds common usage in academic literature and beyond. The relationship between CAC and environmental policy is considered in this article, an area that demonstrates the application of this type of regulation. However, CAC is not limited to the environmental sector and encompasses a variety of different fields.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental cleanup law</span>

Environmental cleanup laws govern the removal of pollution or contaminants from environmental media such as soil, sediment, surface water, or ground water. Unlike pollution control laws, cleanup laws are designed to respond after-the-fact to environmental contamination, and consequently must often define not only the necessary response actions, but also the parties who may be responsible for undertaking such actions. Regulatory requirements may include rules for emergency response, liability allocation, site assessment, remedial investigation, feasibility studies, remedial action, post-remedial monitoring, and site reuse.


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