Dr. Andrea Renda is the 2015-2016 George C. Lamb, Jr. Regulatory Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), where he started and currently manages the CEPS Regulatory Affairs Programme.
What is the Centre for European Policy Studies and what kind of research were you involved in?
The Centre for European Policy Studies is one of the most highly reputed think tanks based in Brussels, active since 1983. I joined CEPS ten years ago to create a new unit dedicated to regulatory policy, which covers fields such as policy evaluation, competition, trade, innovation, consumer protection and many others. A few years ago I also founded the CEPS Digital Forum, which organizes seminars on all aspects of the digital economy, from privacy to cybersecurity and the future of manufacturing. CEPS is a truly European center, but it works also on global issues. It is also a very nice working environment, very flexible and at the same time intellectually open. Working there gives you a great visibility in Brussels: when I am there, I speak at three, four conferences a day! Fortunately, I am not there all the time: until this summer I have spent my life commuting almost every week between Rome, where I teach and where my family normally lives, and Brussels.
Why were you interested in the George C. Lamb Fellowship?
Duke has been a key resource for me since when I started working and researching on regulation. In particular, Jonathan Wiener and Matthew Adler have exerted a strong influence on my scholarly work. And over time, I have discovered many other brilliant academics that work here. One key feature of Duke’s Rethinking Regulation program that always fascinated me is that it is based at the Kenan Institute for Ethics: for a rather unconventional economist like me, passionate for the distributional and ethical impacts of regulation more than for economic efficiency, this is simply fantastic. So, when I decided that 2015 would be a good year for a breathe of fresh (academic) air, Duke was my first choice. The George C. Lamb Jr fellowship thus came as a perfect opportunity, and I am happy not to have missed it.
What are you most looking forward to during your time here at Duke?
Intellectual exchange, inspiration, and insights for my future research. I strongly believe that universities should be re-organized around grand societal challenges, rather than stick to their “silo” approach that tends to keep faculties isolated from each other. Today, in many universities, philosophers, political scientists, economists, lawyers and natural scientists do not talk to each other, and this, I believe, is detrimental to the quality of research since we live in an era in which all academic boundaries are being blurred, and reality goes so fast that only multi-disciplinary thinking can help us understand and digest drastic transitions. The Rethinking Regulation program at Duke represents a wide variety of experiences and academic backgrounds, which looks very promising to me. Think about the many dimensions of immigration, the implications of the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, and of course the great challenge posed by climate change and the future of employment. I expect a university like Duke to teach students how to address these problems from various angles, and still be able to find suitable policy avenues to solve them.
What have you enjoyed the most about Duke so far?
The faculty, the people from the Kenan Institute for Ethics where I am based, the seminars I have attended, and of course the students, who are the heart and soul of a university. I have met many smart and committed students, and it will be my pleasure to challenge them even further with my classes. Duke has what it takes to teach them to be intellectually ambitious: many of them will go far in their careers. I like almost everything about Duke, including the amazing university facilities and the passion for sports and for the Duke colors that you can breathe in the air: if there are negative aspects, I still have to find out! So far, the only thing I’ve noted (apart from troubles in finding a parking space!) is a certain sense of frustration, a sort of “Duke’s not Harvard” syndrome, which I don’t fully understand. Duke is already a top university: a stronger focus on inter-disciplinarity, disruptive thinking and comingling of natural and social sciences will make it even more prominent, and very different from Harvard.
And what have you enjoyed the most about Durham and the surroundings?
Well, the forest around Duke is great. And some of the restaurants in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh are also good. Despite having lived in Rome for many years, I like many of the museums in Durham and Raleigh, especially since they are made to be attractive and informative also for kids: in Rome we have 30% of the world’s cultural endowment, but do not know how to avoid that kids find culture boring. Other than this, North Carolina is a great place for music, from bluegrass to jazz and the Piedmont blues. As a guitarist and singer/songwriter, I have enjoyed the music scene since the day I arrived here. And I was so lucky to find people to play with, right here at the Rethinking Regulation program: with a great band led by Wayne Norman, a professor of Ethics based at the Kenan Institute, we represented Duke at the Triangle Battle of the Bands this year, and even won an important prize! A big success, and an unexpected welcome to me and my guitar in this land of great musicians!
What will your research focus on while you are here, and what kind of work will you be doing with the Rethinking Regulation Network?
I will focus on many parallel streams of research, as I normally do. I will be writing and teaching about the interplay of private regulation with the public interest, which is the main subject of the seminar I will teach in the Spring term of 2016 (called “Private regulation from a public policy perspective”). I will continue my work on regulatory review, which led me to join a fantastic Bass Connections group coordinated by Elizabeth Brake in cooperation with Lori Bennear, Jonathan Wiener and Ed Balleisen. On this same issues, I am currently advising the European Commission, the OECD, and the governments of Thailand, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. But I am also currently writing about innovation and entrepreneurship, on trade issues, on the future of Internet policy, and the application of antitrust law in the information age. And I am increasingly interested in sustainable development and the need to go beyond GDP in measuring the prosperity of nations: on this issue, I plan to contribute to the nascent debate on the need to incorporate income inequality and sustainable development goals in the day-to-day regulatory activity of governments. A big issue, but challenge worth the effort!
What is the class you will be teaching, and what is the focus?
Over the past decade I have developed an interest for the interplay between private regulators, like standards associations, sustainability reporting associations, etc. and public policy. For years I have heard governments and international organizations declaring that governments should give priorities to self-regulation and less burdensome ways of regulating markets, but I have never seen a solid, comprehensive framework for assessing when, and why, this would be the case in certain settings, and not in others. The result is that we ended up with markets collapsing because of too much delegation to private rulemaking, a good example being U.S. financial markets before the financial crisis. My seminar will aim at discussing the conditions under which private regulation can be considered as being in line with the public interest, and how to incorporate them into concrete guidance for policymakers. Of course, this is not all: students will be asked to pick a private regulatory organization and provide their assessment of its governance, internal structure, incentives, and ultimate economic, social, and environmental impacts. Up to me to provide the tools, up to them to surprise me with their findings. We will choose between a variety of cases, from ICANN (which regulates key aspects of the Internet) to the Forest and Marine Stewardship Councils, to IATA for air traffic, GlobalG.A.P. and Utz Certified for food, the international Standards Organization, the International Accounting Standards Board, and many more related to human rights, child labor, and other pressing societal issues. There is an ocean of private regulation out there, which is seldom explained during undergraduate years: Duke is an exception, since there are already faculty members at the Law School, Fuqua and Sanford, who did ground-breaking research on this issue.
What do you hope to gain or contribute during your time here?
At 43, I am now entering the core phase of my academic and intellectual trajectory. I am encouraged by what I have achieved so far, the feedback I have received from colleagues and students, but would like to reflect on the topics on which I should try to make a difference in the years to come. I don’t like working on research subjects for the pure satisfaction of my intellectual thirst. In the coming years, I want to be even more actively involved in the international debate over reforms that can lead to more sustainable development, and more quality in income distribution around the globe. I came to Duke for this reason: to take a deep breath, let this wonderful environment inspire me, and then dive into new adventures with renewed awareness. One virtue of the best academics I have met in my career was certainly curiosity and constant openness to new ideas, a vibrant, constructive sense of unrest. I am sure that interacting with the outstanding faculty of the Rethinking Regulation program will help me nurture my intellectual curiosity, and my understanding of global societal challenges for the years to come. In return, I hope to be able to contribute with both research and teaching, delivering seminars and create new links, for example a link between Duke and CEPS, but also links between Duke faculty members and research groups I believe can usefully cooperate with them.
And if all of this fails, well, I can still try to play some good tunes with my guitar, here at Duke!