All Commentary
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hello? Ever Hear of Regulatory Capture?

Throughout the BP oil spill catastrophe it’s been tedious witnessing government officials’ expressing surprise on learning that the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service has for years held the roles of both watchdog over and business partner with the oil companies in their drilling operations — and that this conflict of interest has kept the MMS from fulfilling its watchdog role effectively.

Well, the theory of “regulatory capture” — which predicts that regulators and the industries they regulate will end up forming intimate relationships — has been in the economics literature for many years. It is most closely identified with Nobel laureate George Stigler, who published his article “The Economic Theory of Regulation” in 1971 (Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, no., pp. 3-18).

You mean to tell me the self-righteous congressmen and administration bureaucrats and flacks haven’t gotten around to reading it yet? What do they do all day?

I note also that the reporters interviewing these jokers are just as ignorant.

  • Sheldon Richman is the former editor of The Freeman and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families and thousands of articles.