Chapter 4: Beyond Capture: Towards a New Theory of Regulation
Steven P. Croley The interest group capture theory of regulation has enjoyed unrivaled influence.1 It occupies, still, a central place in the academic understanding of – given its tenets – the defects of regulatory government. It has, accordingly, provided a foundation for policy arguments to limit the reach of regulatory government. For, on the capture account, sound regulatory government is a naïve aspiration. Yet the theory has seen criticism as well, broad and deep if unevenly across the social sciences. It rests on a flawed account of interest group formation, and an incomplete account of exactly why interest groups, qua groups, participate in regulatory decisionmaking. It also oversimplifies regulatory institutions. Not surprisingly given these defects, its evidentiary base is weak. Its deregulatory policy prescriptions are, therefore, not compelling. That capture theory has been the focus of critical attention is a testimony to its dominance. It is the theory to be evaluated. Thus the challenge for capture theory’s critics is: Supply an alternative. Existing critiques have yet to be synthesized; they constitute more or less piecemeal objections, powerful as some may be. Consequently, the lack of a rival theory, not capture theory’s irresistibility, explains its resilience. If capture theory is to be replaced rather than displaced, additional conceptual, empirical, and indeed normative theory-building must be undertaken. The following pages briefly summarize the central claims of the interest group capture theory of regulation, and review illustrative critiques. Having surveyed some of the theory’s shortcomings, this chapter then identifies some of the steps to...
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