Chapter 6: The Diffusion of Independent Regulatory Agencies: Empirical Analysis
6. The diﬀusion of independent regulatory agencies: empirical analysis INTRODUCTION In Chapters 3 and 4 we examined delegation to IRAs from the perspective of their formal independence from elected politicians. As a result of this conceptual approach and of data limitations, the focus has been crosssectional: we have shown how diﬀerences in formal independence across sectors and countries are linked to the nature of regulation, notably in terms of the need for credible commitment capacity, and to the characteristics of the political system, in particular with respect to alternation in government and to the institutional context. The conclusion was that delegation tends to be more extensive (that is, the formal independence of regulators tends to be greater) in utilities and economic regulation than in social regulation, and in countries where there is frequent alternation between governments with diﬀerent preferences and few veto players. These ﬁndings have conﬁrmed the main theoretical expectations. An important dimension, however, was neglected: delegation to independent regulatory agencies is a process that has taken place over time. This is relevant for several reasons. Obviously, analysing a longitudinal process with cross-sectional data leads to loss of information and various sorts of inaccuracies. But more importantly, time matters. While this fact has a number of important meanings and consequences for social science research (see for example Abbott, 2001; Pierson, 2004), the point that we emphasize is that decisions to set up independent regulators have been made at diﬀerent points in time, and have...
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