Rethinking Regulation undergrads apply lessons to work in energy, law, and advocacy

Over the summer, a few students from Ed Balleisen’s spring undergraduate course “The Modern Regulatory State” applied the knowledge gained in the class to real world situations. The course was a new undergraduate offering that examined modern regulatory bodies from initial formation to current transformations. In addition to group discussions, students were able to speak with other faculty and practitioners on specific topics, such as privatization, deregulation, and the impact of globalization on these regulatory frameworks.


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Taylor Festa, ‘15

This summer, I interned with Judge Judith Wizmur in Camden, New Jersey at a federal bankruptcy court. While aspects of the bankruptcy process are regulated by specific rules, these are open to interpretation by judges. After certain cases, we met with the judge in chambers and discussed how final rulings interpreted regulatory laws on a case-by-case basis. My internship dealt with how the government interprets regulation and how this interpretation relates to people’s lives. I realized that while regulatory procedures set the general rules, lawmakers, industry kings, business leaders, and even citizens interpret and apply that regulation in different ways for different circumstances. In Professor Balleisen’s course, we were able to examine primary documents, improve our writing skills and understand the history of regulation. All in all, the course opened my eyes to the legal system behind regulation, partly influencing my consideration of applying to law school.


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Christian Theuer, ‘14

Over the summer, I was working with an organization called EDAMA Association, which means sustainability in Arabic, aiming to encourage rooftop Solar PV installations so that consumers would be less reliant on the giant power distributor companies. These companies don’t actually produce any of their own power, but instead purchase power from the Jordanian government and then sell it to consumers. Because the country is so resource poor (95% of energy is imported), the government was getting the majority of this power through a natural gas pipeline from Egypt. Not surprisingly, the turmoil in Egypt resulted in the sabotage of some of these pipelines, and the political situation in Egypt has made it difficult for the Jordanian government to re-establish the purchase of natural gas. Because contracts between the Jordanian government and the distributor companies don’t adjust for the price, the government bears almost the entire cost of this increase in the price of energy. The situation basically resulted from a failure of the Jordanian government to calculate the future costs of the Arab Spring reaction in Egypt. Having a real world example of future events impacting a policy framework hit home the idea that policies need some flexibility to prepare for costs/benefits that cannot currently be accounted for.


Arthur Whyte, ‘14

The work I did last summer was with an advocacy organization for direct care workers (home health aides, personal care attendants, etc). When the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, direct care workers were excluded from the minimum wage and overtime protections the act provided to most other workers in the nation, even though these jobs require skill and specialization. Currently the organization is lobbying the Department of Labor to finalize regulations that would extend these standards to home care workers. Seeing how certain basic labor protections are sometimes neither provided by the government nor produced by the market emphasized what we learned of the historical perspective for regulatory battles. I was reminded of questions such as will it hurt employers/employees? Will it hurt consumers? Does the government have the right to intervene in the industry? The class really helped me understand the issue from a historical perspective so that when I had to present arguments in favor of the regulations (such as in a draft for a press release), I was better equipped. My internship reinforced the view I held by the end of the class that government regulation is oftentimes necessary to “correct” an industry when the market fails to do so.