The de facto independence of regulatory agencies and its consequences for policy making and regulatory outcomes


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
The de facto independence of regulatory agencies and its consequences for policy making and regulatory outcomes
Maggetti M.
Braun D.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques (SSP) Université de Lausanne UNIL - Dorigny Anthropole - bureau 2125 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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This dissertation focuses on the practice of regulatory governance, throughout the study of the functioning of formally independent regulatory agencies (IRAs), with special attention to their de facto independence. The research goals are grounded on a "neo-positivist" (or "reconstructed positivist") position (Hawkesworth 1992; Radaelli 2000b; Sabatier 2000). This perspective starts from the ontological assumption that even if subjective perceptions are constitutive elements of political phenomena, a real world exists beyond any social construction and can, however imperfectly, become the object of scientific inquiry. Epistemologically, it follows that hypothetical-deductive theories with explanatory aims can be tested by employing a proper methodology and set of analytical techniques. It is thus possible to make scientific inferences and general conclusions to a certain extent, according to a Bayesian conception of knowledge, in order to update the prior scientific beliefs in the truth of the related hypotheses (Howson 1998), while acknowledging the fact that the conditions of truth are at least partially subjective and historically determined (Foucault 1988; Kuhn 1970). At the same time, a sceptical position is adopted towards the supposed disjunction between facts and values and the possibility of discovering abstract universal laws in social science.
It has been observed that the current version of capitalism corresponds to the golden age of regulation, and that since the 1980s no government activity in OECD countries has grown faster than regulatory functions (Jacobs 1999). Following an apparent paradox, the ongoing dynamics of liberalisation, privatisation, decartelisation, internationalisation, and regional integration hardly led to the crumbling of the state, but instead promoted a wave of regulatory growth in the face of new risks and new opportunities (Vogel 1996). Accordingly, a new order of regulatory capitalism is rising, implying a new division of labour between state and society and entailing the expansion and intensification of regulation (Levi-Faur 2005). The previous order, relying on public ownership and public intervention and/or on sectoral self-regulation by private actors, is being replaced by a more formalised, expert-based, open, and independently regulated model of governance.
Independent regulation agencies (IRAs), that is, formally independent administrative agencies with regulatory powers that benefit from public authority delegated from political decision makers, represent the main institutional feature of regulatory governance (Gilardi 2008). IRAs constitute a relatively new technology of regulation in western Europe, at least for certain domains, but they are increasingly widespread across countries and sectors. For instance, independent regulators have been set up for regulating very diverse issues, such as general competition, banking and finance, telecommunications, civil aviation, railway services, food safety, the pharmaceutical industry, electricity, environmental protection, and personal data privacy. Two attributes of IRAs deserve a special mention. On the one hand, they are formally separated from democratic institutions and elected politicians, thus raising normative and empirical concerns about their accountability and legitimacy. On the other hand, some hard questions about their role as political actors are still unaddressed, though, together with regulatory competencies, IRAs often accumulate executive, (quasi-)legislative, and adjudicatory functions, as well as about their performance.
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30/09/2010 12:25
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20/08/2019 13:53
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