general term for the use of rules or controls in human institutions, including delegated legislation and self-regulation within an organisation
(Redirected from Regulating)

Regulation is the process of the promulgation, monitoring, and enforcement of rules, established by primary and/or delegated legislation, and the resulting written instrument containing rules having the force of law. Regulation creates, limits, or constrains a right, creates or limits a duty, or allocates a responsibility.


  • The general rule, at least, is that while property may be regulated to a certain extent, if regulation goes too far it will be recognized as a taking.
  • I would take to be quite a fool any man who would make a book full of laws and statutes for an apple tree telling it how to bear apples and not thorns, when the tree is able by its own nature to do this better than the man with all his books can describe and demand.
    • Martin Luther, Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523), in Luther's Works, vol. 45 (1962), p. 89
  • Trade is a social act. Whoever undertakes to sell any description of goods to the public, does what affects the interest of other persons, and of society in general; and thus his conduct, in principle, comes within the jurisdiction of society: accordingly, it was once held to be the duty of governments, in all cases which were considered of importance, to fix prices, and regulate the processes of manufacture. But it is now recognised, though not till after a long struggle, that both the cheapness and the good quality of commodities are most effectually provided for by leaving the producers and sellers perfectly free, under the sole check of equal freedom to the buyers for supplying themselves elsewhere. This is the so-called doctrine of Free Trade, which rests on grounds different from, though equally solid with, the principle of individual liberty asserted in this Essay. Restrictions on trade, or on production for purposes of trade, are indeed restraints; and all restraint, quâ restraint, is an evil: but the restraints in question affect only that part of conduct which society is competent to restrain, and are wrong solely because they do not really produce the results which it is desired to produce by them. As the principle of individual liberty is not involved in the doctrine of Free Trade, so neither is it in most of the questions which arise respecting the limits of that doctrine: as for example, what amount of public control is admissible for the prevention of fraud by adulteration; how far sanitary precautions, or arrangements to protect work-people employed in dangerous occupations, should be enforced on employers. Such questions involve considerations of liberty, only in so far as leaving people to themselves is always better, cæteris paribus, than controlling them: but that they may be legitimately controlled for these ends, is in principle undeniable.
  • American society experienced a virtual explosion in government regulation during the past decade. Between 1970 and 1979, expenditures for the major regulatory agencies quadrupled. The number of pages published annually in the Federal Register nearly tripled, and the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations increased by nearly two-thirds. The result has been higher prices, higher unemployment, and lower productivity growth. Overregulation causes small and independent business men and women, as well as large businesses to defer or terminate plans for expansion. And since they're responsible for most of the new jobs, those new jobs just aren't created. Now, we have no intention of dismantling the regulatory agencies, especially those necessary to protect environment and assure the public health and safety. However, we must come to grips with inefficient and burdensome regulations, eliminate those we can and reform the others.
  • Although the functions of a regulatory commission are fairly straightforward in theory, in practice its task is far more complex and, in some respects, impossible. Moreover, the political climate in which regulatory commissions operate often leads to policies and results directly the opposite of what was expected by those who created such commissions.
    Ideally, a regulatory commission would set prices where they would have been if there were a competitive marketplace. In practice, there is no way to know what those prices would be. Only the actual functioning of a market itself could reveal such prices, with the less efficient firms being eliminated by bankruptcy and only the most efficient surviving, with their lower prices now being the market prices. No outside observers can know what the most efficient ways of operating a given firm or industry are. Indeed, many managements within an industry discover the hard way that what they thought was the most efficient way to do things was not efficient enough to meet the competition, and end up losing customers as a result. The most that a regulatory agency can do is accept what appear to be reasonable production costs and allow the monopoly to make what seems to be a reasonable profit over and above such costs.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics (2010), Ch. 7. Big Business and Government
  • The economic complexities involved when regulatory agencies set prices are compounded by political complexities. Regulatory agencies are often set up after some political crusaders have successfully launched investigations or publicity campaigns that convince the authorities to establish a permanent commission to oversee and control a monopoly or some group of firms few enough in number to be a threat to behave in collusion as if they were one monopoly. However, after a commission has been set up and its powers established, crusaders and the media tend to lose interest over the years and turn their attention to other things. Meanwhile, the firms being regulated continue to take a keen interest in the activities of the commission and to lobby the government for favorable regulations and favorable appointments of individuals to these commissions.
    The net result of these asymmetrical outside interests on these agencies is that commissions set up to keep a given firm or industry within bounds, for the benefit of the consumers, often metamorphose into agencies seeking to protect the existing regulated firms from threats arising from new firms with new technology or new organizational methods.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics (2010), Ch. 7. Big Business and Government
  • With anti-trust laws, as with regulatory commissions, a sharp distinction must be made between their original rationales and what they actually do. The basic rationale for anti-trust laws is to prevent monopoly and other conditions which allow prices to rise above where they would be in a free and competitive marketplace. In practice, most of the famous anti-trust cases in the United States have involved some business that charged lower prices than its competitors. Often it has been complaints from these competitors which caused the government to act.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics (2010), Ch. 7. Big Business and Government
  • Will one of you gentlemen tell me in what civilized country of the earth there are important government boards of control on which private interests are represented? Which of you gentlemen thinks the railroads should select members of the Interstate Commerce Commission?
    • Attributed to Woodrow Wilson, at a meeting of bankers and the president shortly before he asked Congress to enact legislation creating a Federal Reserve System; reported in Carter Glass, An Adventure in Constructive Finance (1927, reprinted 1975), chapter 7, p. 116. This appears to be the origin of what is frequently quoted as: "You don't put robbers to work in a bank".

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