The importance of regulation has risen over the past 40 years. It has been central to economic growth as well as an important part of social progress. Whilst governments have progressively tended to become less involved in direct service provision, regulation has become an expanding part of their work and a policy preference. Governments are increasingly using a mix of contractual arrangements, rules and other regulatory tools to achieve a range of social and economic objectives. Independent regulators are also increasingly required to balance sometimes contradictory social and economic values. This article examines the extent to which traditional conceptions of social and economic regulation continue to provide a useful framework within which to analyse modern regulators and regulatory activity, and concludes that they no longer reflect what occurs in practice with the risk that their continued use is apt to confuse. The article then posits an alternative way of conceptualising economic and social regulation that better reflects modern regulatory practice - one in which all regulation is underpinned by a mix of interconnected and interdependent social and economic values; where the distinction between social and economic regulation resides in the primacy of the values each is designed to advance and the purpose each is designed to achieve; and where the presence of the other (non-primary) values play a crucial role in legitimising the regulatory endeavour. This later point - which has not always been acknowledged - has important implications for modern regulators and regulatory activity.
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