Rethinking Regulation


Rethinking Regulation at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is an interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach program exploring the broad terrain of regulatory governance through both descriptive and normative approaches. We have over 40 faculty members and more than 20 graduate, undergraduate, and professional students who are part of our network from Duke, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. The program serves as a launching pad for interdisciplinary research and education projects, providing a new means of connecting faculty and students across the boundaries of disciplines and professional schools. It also provides opportunities to link scholars to policy-makers.

Get Involved
If you are interested in joining the Rethinking Regulation network, please contact Amber Díaz Pearson. To receive the Rethinking Regulation email newsletter, signup using our easy online form. Any graduate students interested in participating in the regular Graduate Student Working Group meetings should contact Mercy DeMenno.

Why Study Regulation at an Ethics Institute?
Regulation is fraught with ethical tensions that affect everyone, everyday. How do we balance protection of the environment with the need to create and sustain jobs? How do we balance efforts to ensure the safety of medical professionals, drugs and products with encouragement for innovation and policies to improve access to care? What values should guide competition policy?  How much leeway should technocratic experts have to shape the content of regulations, and what are the most sensible ways to make regulatory decision-making accountable to the broader public? Too often regulation is framed and discussed in narrow ways. We seek to broaden the discussion by including a wider array of disciplinary voices and building conversations across the divides of regulatory policy domains.

Four Main Areas of Strategic Focus:
The Rethinking Regulation program currently has four overlapping areas of focus:

  • Recalibrating Risk
  • Adaptive Regulation
  • Antitrust/Competition Law and Policy
  • Regulatory Strategies in Emerging Economies

1) Recalibrating Risk:  Several members of the Rethinking Regulation group share an interest in how crises reshape risk perceptions, both among the general public and policy makers. Researchers involved in this project are questioning both the timing and nature of regulatory responses to these events, such as oil spills, nuclear incidents, and financial recessions. A major collaborative study on these issues is currently underway, led by Edward Balleisen, Jonathan Wiener, Kim Krawiec, and Lori Bennear. Uniting international authors from many disciplines, this publication project is supported by a grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation. In addition, an international conference is being organized around this topic to be held in Paris in mid-October, 2014.

 2) Adaptive Regulation:  In partnership with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, this project explores how regulatory authorities cope with extremely rapid change, either in technology or economic conditions. This project brings together faculty from across the university to consider: general processes of organizational learning; strategies of institutional design to encourage a culture of experimentation and assessment of regulatory results; and specific case studies of regulatory attempts to cope with rapid advances in scientific understanding and/or advances in technologies.

3) Competition Policy in a Global Economy: Our research and teaching on competition law and policy (also known as antitrust in the United States) seeks to advance the understanding of competition law and policy in a global economy. Led by Tim Büthe, our work in this area is based on the understanding that competition is a key driver of many of the benefits associated with a market economy, including efficiency, innovation, economic opportunity and arguably even political freedom. Competition law and policy seeks to ensure market competition through the prohibition of cartels, collusion, bid-rigging, and the abuse of market dominance, as well as the regulation of mergers to constrain anti-competitive concentrations of economic power. As a consequence, however, it also raises difficult ethical and inherently political questions, especially in light of the global integration of market, since competition policy entails using the power of the state to restrain and possibly redistribute market power.

4) Regulatory Strategies in Emerging Economies.  Scholarship around this topic aims to map the regulatory initiatives in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America, paying close attention to patterns of policy diffusion (whether from the US and the EU to emerging economies; between emerging economies; or from the “periphery” to the “core”) and the ways that globalization shapes those patterns. Researchers are looking back through the last fifteen years, as emerging economies across the globe have begun to create modern regulatory institutions.  They are examining how privatization has led many countries to try to regulate newly created firms that have taken advantage of their market dominance and how a host of global NGOs have become interested in strategies for regulating global supply chains.