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Are Regulators Responsive?

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For decades there has been a trend in regulatory studies to advocate a responsive, tit-for-tat, regulatory strategy. However, most of the prominent arguments for this strategy are theoretical and few have tested its effectiveness. Even less tested has been whether or not regulatory inspectors manage to react responsively to the “conduct” of regulatees. By distinguishing between five different kinds of responsiveness, the present article tests these different kinds of responsiveness in four different regulatory areas, using data about more than 2,500 legal breaches. The empirical analyses show that regulatory inspectors manage to act responsively, but only to a small degree and not necessarily in the way that the theories of responsive and tit-for-tat regulation recommend. Furthermore, the analyses show large differences between the four regulatory areas suggesting that future studies should focus on the role of formal and informal institutional settings in creating responsiveness. If we want to design regulatory agencies that are able to regulate responsively we need to know what kind of institutional settings promote responsiveness.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Publication date: July 1, 2006


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