The Paradox of Regulation

The Paradox of Regulation

What Regulation Can Achieve and What it Cannot

Fiona Haines

This up-to-date book takes a fresh look at regulation and risk and argues that the allure of regulation lies in its capacity to reduce risk whilst preserving the benefits of trade, travel and commerce.

Chapter 9: Conclusion

Fiona Haines

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy


The analysis of regulation presented in this book demonstrates the need for a comprehensive and dynamic appreciation of the challenges that regulation is required to address. These challenges are diverse and encompass political and social as well as actuarial risks. Such diversity demonstrates the limits of studying compliance without considering the goals that infuse reform and of scrutinising reform without taking account of whether and how compliance occurs. In the wake of the three events analysed in the chapters above, regulatory reforms cascaded from parliaments through to regulatory agencies and finally made their presence felt at workplaces. Within disparate worksites new infrastructure was created, routines reconfigured and records developed to demonstrate compliance. In this process, improvements were made that could reduce the risk of future disaster, a demonstration that regulatory reform can result in a ‘spiral of progress’ as Kahn (1990) hoped. There were clear examples in this study where the lessons of disaster were learnt, leading to enhanced and well-designed regulatory regimes and high levels of compliance. Here, ‘Never again’ could ring true. At the level of regulatory technique, the wisdom behind a meta-regulatory approach (Parker 2002), as exemplified by the major hazards regime in Victoria, demonstrated the power of drawing on local knowledge, together with rigorous oversight, as an effective method of reducing the risk of low probability yet high impact events. Yet, there were also examples of failure, which were well understood by the regulatory literature with examples of ritualistic (for example, Power 1997) and creative compliance...

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