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Cary Coglianese and co-authors analyze key problems with U.S. regulatory system in latest book

October 01, 2012

In a new book, Regulatory Breakdown: The Crisis of Confidence in U.S. Regulation (University of Pennsylvania Press), Cary Coglianese, a professor of Law and Political Science and the Director of the Penn Program on Regulation, and other leading scholars dissect some of the causes of the current U.S. regulatory crisis and propose possible solutions to fix a broken system.

In the book, chapters by experts from Penn and around the nation examine the contrasting and often polarized views about regulatory failure prevalent in America today, and demonstrate the value of undertaking systematic analysis before adopting policy reforms.

Professor Coglianese sat down with Penn Law’s Office of Communications to talk about the book.


I’m Cary Coglianese, the Director of the Penn Program of Regulation and the Edward Shils Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania. My new book is Regulatory Breakdown: The Crisis of Confidence in the U.S. Regulatory System.

Democrats and Republicans agree on very little in Washington today, but one thing they both seem to agree about is that the U.S. regulatory system has broken down, that we leave a lot of problems unaddressed or create new problems with our regulatory system. On the one hand Democrats and others on the left blame regulation - or the lack of effective regulation - for getting us into the current economic crisis. Whereas the Republicans and those on the right tend to view regulation and its associated costs and uncertainties as keeping us from getting out of the current economic crisis.

This book, Regulatory Breakdown, won’t necessarily settle that debate between Democrats and Republicans once and for all, and maybe it suggests that there is some truth to both accounts or maybe to none, but it does bring fresh insight and some new analysis to bear on that question.

Regulation is a tool designed to solve particular problems that arise in economic markets and in society overall. To use that tool well, we need to understand the problems that it’s designed to address, but we also need to understand the tool itself or the different types of tools. This book generates better understanding about how to figure out what’s really wrong and then how to go about trying to fix it.

If your car broke down on the highway you and your passengers could get out and walk around, and you could debate all day about what went wrong. But you really aren’t going to know what went wrong, nor how to fix, it until somebody knowledgeable opens up the hood or gets underneath the car and takes a look around and actually figures it out. That’s what we have tried to do with this book about the U.S. regulatory system, and I think [readers] will come away with a much better idea about what truly ails us, and also a better idea about how we can go about fixing it.

This transcript was edited for length.