The usual focus of regulatory policy debates is the appropriate level of health, safety, environmental, and labor regulation—policies that impose costs on existing businesses in the name of reducing harms to others. One side argues that the costs are too high and that regulatory “relief” is needed; the other side counters that the benefits of regulation are vitally important and that any reduction in protection would be irresponsible. Which side has the better argument depends on the specific issue, but in general the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
In their book The Captured Economy, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles launch a new kind of debate over regulatory policy. Their focus is on regulations that confer benefits on existing businesses at the expense of would-be rivals and consumers. Specifically, they identify four major areas of “regressive regulation”—finance, intellectual property, occupational licensing, and land-use regulation—that stymie and distort competition while redistributing income and wealth up the socioeconomic scale.
The Niskanen Center is building on Lindsey and Teles’s book with a new website dedicated to the problem of regressive regulation. This website, which will be launched soon, will gather together all major academic research as well as all the latest news on policy reform developments. By serving as a valuable resource for both journalists and policymakers, the website will help to promote reform in specific policy areas while also raising awareness of the larger background problems of regulatory capture and democratic dysfunction.