Delegation in the Regulatory State

Delegation in the Regulatory State

Independent Regulatory Agencies in Western Europe

Fabrizio Gilardi

During the past 25 years, independent regulatory agencies have become widespread institutions for regulatory governance. This book studies how they have diffused across Europe and compares their formal independence in 17 countries and seven sectors. Through a series of quantitative analyses, it finds that governments tend to be more prone to delegate powers to independent regulators when they need to increase the credibility of their regulatory commitments and when they attempt to tie the hands of their successors. The institutional context also matters: political institutions that make policy change more difficult are functional equivalents of delegation. In addition to these factors, emulation has driven the diffusion of independent regulators, which have become socially valued institutions that help policymakers legitimize their actions, and may even have become taken for granted as the appropriate way to organize regulatory policies.

Chapter 6: The Diffusion of Independent Regulatory Agencies: Empirical Analysis

Fabrizio Gilardi

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance


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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