The Public Interest

A conservative case for regulation

Irwin M. Stelzer

Summer 1997

NOTHING upsets a conservative quite so much as the threat of “regulation”—or at least, of economic regulation (social regulation being something that various subsets of conservatives find attractive). Conservatives, after all, are brought up believing in an anti-regulation trinity.  First, regulation is unnecessary because all monopoly power is thought to be transient, subject sooner or later to successful challenge from new entrants. Second, regulators are subject to “regulatory capture,” making them the servants rather than the masters of the companies they are supposed to regulate.  Third, it is futile to try to correct market failure (imperfections in the working of the free market) with regulation, since regulatory failure (inefficient decisions by regulators) will prove to be the greater evil.

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