Government regulation is ubiquitous today in rich and middle-income countries--present in areas that range from workplace conditions to food processing to school curricula--although standard economic theories predict that it should be rather uncommon. In this book, Andrei Shleifer argues that the ubiquity of regulation can be explained not so much by the failure of markets as by the failure of courts to solve contract and tort disputes cheaply, predictably, and impartially. When courts are expensive, unpredictable, and biased, the public will seek alternatives to dispute resolution. The form this alternative has taken throughout the world is regulation.
The Failure of Judges and the Rise of Regulators gathers Shleifer’s influential writings on regulation and adds to them a substantial introductory essay in which Shleifer critiques the standard theories of economic regulation and proposes “the Enforcement Theory of Regulation,” which sees regulation as the more efficient strategy for social control of business. Subsequent chapters present the theoretical and empirical case against the efficiency of courts, make the historical and theoretical case for the comparative efficiency of regulation, and offer two empirical studies suggesting circumstances in which regulation might emerge as an efficient solution to social problems. Shleifer does not offer an unconditional endorsement of regulation and its expansion but rather argues that it is better than its alternatives, particularly litigation.
Andrei Shleifer is Professor of Economics at Harvard University and recipient of the 1999 John Bates Clark Medal.