Edited by David Levi-Faur
Chapter 3: Capturing ‘Capture’: Definition and Mechanisms
3 Capturing “capture”: definition and mechanisms Barry M. Mitnick It has been at least since Horace Gray (1940) and Merle Fainsod (1940) that scholars have warned that government regulation tended to serve the interests of regulated parties over more general public interests. Even though modern conceptions of the regulatory state are diverse and evolving (e.g., Jordana and Levi-Faur 2004), the uses of the state by private interests remain prominent features of regulation. A variety of political and bureaucratic processes have been said to be at the root of such outcomes. Huntington (1952) famously characterized the condition of the US Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) as a “marasmus” in which the railroad industry successfully concentrated and defended regulatory functions within an independent agency strongly supported and influenced by that industry (cf. Kolko 1965 on the early years of the ICC and the critical historiographical literature it generated). Bernstein’s (1955) “life cycle” model similarly focused on agency changes that occurred in the evolution of industry support for and defense of its regulation. The label “capture” has frequently been applied to such situations. A significant problem with the use of the term rests in its casual and sometimes conflicting uses. For example, “capture” has been said to be present, variously, when “regulatory agencies [are] captives of the industries they are supposed to regulate” (Gormley 1982); when regulators identify with the agency or become sympathetic with the agency’s problems or become lenient in enforcement (Makkai and Braithwaite 1992); when “regulated groups were able to control...
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