This book will become the bible of regulatory reform. No broad, authoritative treatment of the subject has been available for many years except for Alfred Kahn's "Economics of Regulation" (197O). And Stephen Breyer's book is not merely a utilitarian analysis or a legal discussion of procedures; it employs the widest possible perspective to survey the full implications of government regulation economic, legal, administrative, political while addressing the complex problems of administering regulatory agencies. Only a scholar with Judge Breyer's practical experience as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee could have accomplished this task. He develops an ingenious original system for classifying regulatory activities according to the kinds of problems that have called for, or have seemed to call for, regulation; he then examines how well or poorly various regulatory regimes remedy these market defects. This enables him to organize an enormous amount of material in a coherent way, and to make significant and useful generalizations about real-world problems.Among the regulatory areas he considers are health and safety; environmental pollution, trucking, airlines, natural gas, public utilities, and telecommunications. He further gives attention to related topics such as cost-of-service ratemaking, safety standards, antitrust, and property rights. Clearly this is a book whose time is here a veritable how-to-do-it book for administration deregulators, legislators, and the judiciary; and because it is comprehensive and superbly organized, with a wealth of highly detailed examples, it is practical for use in law schools and in courses on economics and political science."
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(229mm x 152mm x 26mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
A timely if somewhat padded reprise of the basics of economic regulation - drawing upon Breyer's experience as an architect of airline deregulation in the late 1970s. A regulatory scheme, he maintains, must "match" the type of regulation it employs with the free-market defect it seeks to cure. Setting emission standards for pollution control, for example, will not be as successful as government-sold "rights" to pollute - because the former entails extraordinary administrative costs, discourages voluntary compliance, and does not distinguish between firms which can abate pollution cheaply and those which cannot. ICC regulation of prices and entry in the trucking industry is another mismatch: such controls, appropriate for natural monopolies like electricity or telecommunications, merely muck up a structurally competitive industry like trucking. Correspondingly, Breyer dismisses as tangential such "generic" attempts at regulatory reform as the legislative veto or increased consumer-input in agency decision-making. Rather, reform must proceed case by case, industry by industry - guided by consistently applied economic analysis, not by political pressures or institutional concepts. Breyer hasn't succumbed to deregulation fever altogether: he admits, for instance, the uncertain strength of the case for deregulation of the long-distance telephone industry. But he is full of awe at the efficiency of the free market; and citing the high prices, lessened competition, and occasional shortages which result from misguided regulation, he emphatically places the burden of proof on those who would tinker with the workings of laissez-faire. Approximately half the book is thesis - the principles of regulation; half, an industry-by-industry rundown (most interesting, by far, as regards the airlines). And its very compendiousness is a burden. But it does provide a report on the thinking and activity in the deregulation movement - as regards everything from seat belts to saccharin. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Stephen Breyer
Stephen Breyer is Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.