Reframing Democratic Governance
Chapter 10: The dynamics of the regulatory space
From its nineteenth-century beginnings in health and safety, the regulatory world has grown inexorably despite periodic attempts to roll back its domain. In the late twentieth century Reagan and Thatcher promised to 'deregulate' and in this century the Cameron government has promised a 'bonfire of the quangos' and Obama has promised to cut 'red tape'. The promises have not halted the growth of regulatory activity. Historically, the growth of the regulatory space has been propelled by a succession of different societal concerns - from those generated by periods of economic distress or crisis, to concern with social conditions and the quality of the environment, to a need to counteract a perceived weakening of traditional social norms. It has been prompted as well by a desire to bypass entrenched bureaucracies - through the creation of new agencies in the 1930s and then again in the 1980s in the wake of the so-called 'new public management'. It has been prompted further by distrust of democratic governments in the handling of information, in their lack of relevant knowledge and in their short-term preoccupation with re-election. In addition, as has been discussed, modern societies lack a unifying homogenous sense of identity. They are inhabited by people with multiple identities, holding and expressing multiple values, so that regulation seems to play an essential role in steering through the difficulties associated with social diversity.
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