The New Regulatory Space

The New Regulatory Space

Reframing Democratic Governance

Frank Vibert

This groundbreaking book analyses changing patterns of governance in modern democratic societies. Frank Vibert discusses how far we should be concerned about such changes and what we should be concerned about. Crucially, Vibert clarifies the status of regulation, revealing how regulation should be viewed, not only as a technique offering specific responses to particular policy problems, but also in its new role as the key mechanism for making adjustments between the different systems of coordination used in contemporary governance.

Chapter 6: The regulatory space and the law

Frank Vibert

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, law - academic, law and society, regulation and governance, politics and public policy, international politics, public policy, regulation and governance


Adam Smith considered many of the functions of regulation as 'too trifling' for further discussion. He seems to have taken this rather dismissive attitude for two main reasons. First he underestimated the extent to which individuals in society would become dependent on the skills and knowledge of others in leading their daily lives. For example, in his day many people were probably able to make their own rough judgement about the condition of their own legs or a horse as their means of transport. In our time we rely every day on both operators and regulators to make expert judgements on our behalf about the safety of the transport systems we use. Secondly, he seems to have considered the issues raised by the law to offer more fundamental insights into the origins of our desire for justice and fairness in society than regulation. He referred to regulation as simply belonging to the 'police' functions of government. However, as was mentioned earlier, in his analysis of the law Adam Smith identified the importance of law in handling issues where there was an emotional distance between what affects us closely and what does not. In modern theorizing what he saw as emotional distance has been termed 'relational distance'. It can refer to physical distance, or generational distance, or educational distance, or to infrequency of contact - particularly face-to-face contact - or to temporal distance.

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