This is the transcript of my inaugural lecture as I have delivered it on 22 October 2019 at the Victoria University of Wellington. The lecture is a summary of a more extensive essay that touches on the same topic. For references to the regulatory literature that I discuss in the lecture, please consult that essay. There is also a more compact version of the text underpinning this lecture, in the form of an opinion piece on the Newsroom.
koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
Mevrouw de provost,
leden van het bestuur van de Victoria University
zeer gewaardeerde toehoorders hier in de zaal en
in Nederland via de livestream.
Thank you, Provost for that generous
It is my pleasure to be with you all today, and
a great honor to be delivering my inaugural lecture here at Victoria
As central theme for this lecture I have
chosen a whakatauki, the Maori
proverb: ka mua, ka muri.
This brief statement contains profound truth: By
looking backward – by facing the past – we can move forward toward a better
Regulation as the implementation of policy to
stabilize the social order and promote both the general and economic welfare of
all members within a community or state has a bit of a bad reputation.
From the Umbrella Movement protests in Hong
Kong and the Extinction Rebellion protests around the globe, to the populist
tide sweeping over the U.S. and some parts of Europe, much of the angst being
acted-out in present-day societies can be traced back to a deep and pernicious
suspicion of regulation, and particularly of centralized, government-controlled
As with so many fears, this one is an
intoxicating cocktail of truth and fiction. It is true that the 20th century has
witnessed how regulations can, intentionally or not, be abused to the great
detriment of millions of people.
But if we were to zoom out, beyond the horizon
of a mere 60 or 70 years of human history – the greater narrative is that
regulations have contributed to massive leaps forward in societal stabilization
and economic prosperity. It is with this greater narrative – the story of
regulation told over 4,000 years of human history – that I wish to begin with
However, before we turn around to face the
past, allow me to define some important terms.
While the concept ‘regulation’ is defined
differently across the social sciences, there is a broad consensus that
regulation seeks to influence the behaviour of individuals and collectives, in
order to make social interaction and transactions predictable, and to reduce
uncertainties by setting expectations and codifying consequences.
Regulation is thus vital to many areas of
society. Without regulation, the economic system would be unable to create and
stabilize expectations regarding access to scarce resources. Without
regulation, the legal system would be unable to ensure that normative
expectations are stabilized because people would not buy-into a system that
seemed inherently unjust. And without regulation, the political system would
not be able to achieve collectively binding decisions.
In a phrase: regulation is an essential part
of the ‘social glue’ that keeps societies together.
But coming to this understanding did not
happen suddenly. Rather, it was a coming-to-terms with reality that played out
across human civilizations for millennia.
The exact history of the evolution of early
regulatory regimes is unclear. Insights from evolutionary biology,
anthropology, population genetics, and so on, indicate that humans are
hardwired to cooperate in social groups. The ‘skills’ to cooperate, predominantly
shared altruism and kin selection, are programmed in our genomes.
As the political scientist and economist Francis
Fukuyama aptly summarized a large body of work on this topic: ‘Human beings are
rule-following animals by nature; they are born to conform to the social norms
they see around them, and they entrench those rules with often transcendent
meaning and value.’
Yet to be able to operate in large social
groups, beyond band-level societies, we humans have had to overcome the limits of
our in-built regulatory hardwiring to allow for social organisation beyond our
biologically-motivated allegiances to kin.
For a long time, there was no specific
distinction between law and regulation at least, not as generally understood
today. Various civilizations have at different points of pre-modernity developed
concepts of property and possession, contracts and obligations, and retaliation
of capital and non-capital crimes.
Like money and the printing press, regulation
and regulatory regimes had to be invented to either facilitate or enhance
cooperation within the social order. And once they were invented, their further
development enabled and facilitated more complex and sophisticated forms of cooperation,
which then required more sophisticated forms of law and regulation.
It was – and remains – a self-perpetuating
What is of particular interest for our
purposes here today, is that the delivery of pre-modern regulation and the
means by which it sought to achieve its aims have gone through comparable
stages in different societies around the globe over the course of thousands of
In the earliest civilizations, tribal
societies operated under an informal, localized system of retribution to ‘pay
off’ the harm done by one party to another. This informal system is known as
When exactly such customary regimes of restorative blood money evolved into more complex and uniform regulatory regimes remains at question. Yet by the time King Hammurabi came to power as supreme ruler of Babylon around 1800 BC, we know this transition had been made.
The Codex Hammurabi is one of the oldest
preserved sets of laws comprising an extensive set of ‘fitting’ punishments for
a variety of harms—this is known as ‘lex talionis.’ For example, Hammurabi
stated that if a house built by a builder collapses and kills its owner, the
builder shall be put to death. But, if the house collapses and kills the slave
of its owner, the builder’s slave shall be put to death.
There are two major differences between the
tribal system of blood money and regulatory systems such as Hammurabi’s. First
is that blood money seeks to restore harm done, whereas systems such as
Hammurabi’s seeks to retaliate for harm done.
Second is that in many tribal societies there
often is no sovereign who yields enough power to execute enforcement of legal
decisions, which leaves it to the litigant to do so. With the rise of sovereign
rulers, the power to enforce rules became invested in them.
This transition from local – and often
non-binding restorative regulatory regimes to uniform retaliative regulatory
regimes enforced by a sovereign or its representatives allowed, in theory, for
treating those regulated equally and consistently under the law across time and
The transition from systems of tribal blood
money to systems such as Hammurabi’s Code was the first great leap forward for
humans creating orderly, just societies. But what this transition fell short in
achieving was preventing harm in the first place by shaping desirable behaviour
within its citizens.
Under Fajia (‘Legalism’) in ancient China
(which emerged ca. 400 BC), and across Europe in the Middle Ages (ca. 6th
to 16th century), regulatory regimes evolved further to address this
first shortfall—crime prevention.
During this time, regulatory regimes became
increasingly deterrence-oriented. Rather than retaliating for a harm after the
fact, the act of causing harm was, in theory, deterred through terror. This
terror often implied any one of several corporal punishments for offences,
major and minor, and was often carried out in public. However, as history bears
out many times, controlling behavior through fear is not an effective long-term
That is why, under Confucianism in ancient
China (which experienced a revival from the 6th century), and across
Europe during the Enlightenment (the late 17th and early 18th
century) regulatory regimes underwent a transition to address this second
shortcoming—shaping the ‘good’ citizen. Confucianist and Enlightenment scholars
alike called for regulatory intervention that sought to re-educate
rule-violators and change their behaviour from within allowing criminals to
enter back into society as well-behaved citizens.
These scholars also considered penalties such
as imprisonment and re-equipment of individuals through corrective regulatory
regimes as more humane than inflicting severe corporal or even capital
In sum, in prehistoric times, regulatory
regimes emerged to encourage social cooperation. From then onward, they evolved
from largely restorative-oriented regulatory regimes, to retaliative and
deterrence-oriented ones, to correction-oriented regulatory regimes.
I must stress, however, that the exact
demarcation between these orientations is not always easy to draw if your look
at the history of regulation around the globe.
Yet, starting in the 18th century, two
further important developments in the evolution of regulatory regimes were
triggered and caused a clear demarcation — a clear break from the past.
First is the social and economic colonization
of large parts of the world by European countries. For the first time in human
history, the European Enlightenment inspired a new approach to regulatory
governance that came to dominate regulatory regimes on a global scale through
This new attempt at a very nascent version of
global order, was coupled with the detrimental social and environmental
consequences of the first and second industrial revolutions
It was this second development, which made very
clear that this new, Enlightenment-inspired orientation had its limits. The
first and second industrial revolutions brought about a range of changes that
were unprecedented — if not in terms of substance, then at least in terms of
People were no longer merely subject to harm
in their day to day interactions with others, but also to large-scale
industrial risks. Industrialisation also led to a novel distribution of harms
and risks through rapid urbanisation, negative externalities and the working
and living conditions in which large groups of working-class people suddenly
It became obvious that many of the new harms
and risks were too complex to be addressed through a traditional understanding
of law and regulation.
In mainland Europe in particular, these
insights led to a growth of harm and risk-pooling initiatives, such as public
pensions, unemployment insurance, and public health schemes—all examples in
which harm and risk is an object of regulatory governance.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the regime
of tort law in the United States, in which the evidentiary burden is on the
plaintiff, turned out to be unable to deal with many of the indirect or
slow-to-materialise risks that arose from industrialisation. Between the 1960s
and the 1990s, this led to a move in the United States away from minimal
federal regulation towards an approach of risk governance in which the
government often took action to regulate anticipated health, safety and environmental
harms. Risk technologies (particularly risk estimation) were seen as a way of
providing public security.
Regulation thus moved further away from
restoring harm done in the past and towards preventing harm from occurring in
the first place.
From the time before King Hammurabi until
roughly the 1960s, regulatory regimes had evolved from government-led, top-down,
intrusive interventions based on deterrence and correction, aiming to control
activities, products, processes or behaviours of individuals and groups to
seeking to proactively achieve desirable societal goals.
This recent approach to regulatory governance
is often referred to as command-and-control. In its various guises, command-and-control
has provided humanity with a mechanism to collaborate in ever larger and ever
more complex social groups.
Yet, from the 1960s onward command-and-control
has faced ever-increasing criticism and scrutiny. Understanding the
shortcomings of command-and-control and responding to societies’ calls for
regulatory reform, governments around the globe have been actively innovating
with regulatory regimes since the 1960s.
The innovations that are undertaken attempted
to shift away from the traditional top-down, intrusive, government-led
Yet, none of the innovations to date have
substantially changed that strategy. Instead, innovations are often layered
onto it, not so much to replace existing regulatory regimes but to finetune
Overviewing the regulatory literature, four
innovations have dominated regulatory reform since the 1960s:
First, an embracing of nuanced, mixed
regulatory regimes that combine deterrence-oriented and compliance-oriented
From the 1960s onwards, evidence began to
accumulate that many people comply with regulations not because they fear the
consequences of non-compliance—as so many of the old regulatory regimes had
assumed—but because they feel a moral duty to obey.
These insights into the strengths and
weaknesses of deterrence-oriented and compliance-oriented regulation led to a
ground-braking strategy: responsive regulation.
Responsive regulation builds on the notion
that rejecting deterrence-oriented regulation is naïve, while total commitment
to it might lead to unnecessary employment of means. Responsive regulation,
therefore, promotes the use of different, less punitive and less restrictive regulation
and blend these with more punitive and restrictive responses if the situation
calls for it.
Second, an embracing of risk management
strategies raised calls to prioritise regulatory actions designed to allocate
limited regulatory resources in a rational, transparent and accountable manner.
In the 1980s, there was a call on government
departments to become more cost-effective and efficient. Inspired by the
successful wielding of risk assessment and risk management tools in the
business sector, government departments began to embrace these tools too.
In risk-based regulation, the focus is on the
allocation of resources based on risk levels. Essential to risk regulatory
governance and risk-based regulation is that risk is used as a decision-making
resource that allows for a reasoned response to a possible harm or gain.
The third dominant regulatory reform since
the 1960s is, an embracing of non-state actors in regulatory governance.
Growing criticism of expensive, bureaucratic
regulation led to a range of initiatives to contract out or delegate regulatory
tasks to private sector agents, or even to privatize these tasks fully.
Also, because governmental regulators often
lacked relevant capacity and expertise they had to turn to external, non-government
‘regulatory intermediaries’ for rule development, defining standards, and rule-monitoring
Fourth, an embracing of a more realistic,
‘less rational’ human behaviour model.
Regulatory governance, like many areas of
policy making and implementation, has long been built on rational choice
theory—and often still is.
Rational choice theory is an analytical framework
for understanding and modelling the social and economic behaviour of groups of
people. As we see so often in the history of modern regulatory governance, the
origins of rational choice theory can also be traced back to Enlightenment thinking.
Yet, more recently, applied insight from
behavioural economics, cognitive sciences and psychology have, however, revealed
that humans often are less rational in making choices under uncertainty than is
predicted the rational choice model that underpins so many of our current
Following these insights, since the early
2000s governments around the world have begun to embrace a more realistic human
behaviour model through behaviour-informed regulatory interventions.
In sum, rapid industrialisation, awareness of
the rising costs of traditional regulatory regimes, and rapid globalisation
driven first by industry and then by technology highlighted the limitations of
the traditional command-and-control regulatory strategies of the early 20th
However, rather than a full overhaul of this
regulatory strategy, governments around the globe have turned to a variety of
‘patches’ that apply insights from psychology, the behavioural sciences and
criminology about compliance motivations; insights from economics and risk
studies about how to best allocate limited regulatory resources to achieve the
greatest net-effect; and the involvement of non-government individuals and
organisations in the development, implementation and enforcement of regulation.
Still, a series of major and smaller
regulatory crises over the past decades – such as the Chernobyl nuclear
disaster in 1986, the “mad cow” crisis in the 1990s, the global financial
crisis in the 2000s, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and the global
climate crisis we’re facing today – indicate that despite centuries of advancements
in regulation, societies remain exposed to real and novel harms and risks.
Our historical analysis of regulatory
governance has indicated that regulators have a wide variety of tools and
strategies at their disposal. Yet, these all may cause different results depending
on the regulatory contexts and the societal context within which they operate; as
well as how they interact with each other.
When implemented in an ad hoc manner, as we so
often observe, it is unlikely that any of the regulatory tools, instruments,
strategies or processes we’ve discussed thus far are capable of providing
sufficient, long-term answers to our present set of regulatory problems.
Some scholars argue that rather than seeking a
‘quick fix’ in response to incidents, regulators may be better off becoming
more anticipatory, and focusing, for instance, on meta-regulation reform—that
is, rethinking the rules that specify how regulation may be altered, and
reconsidering how to deal with ambiguity and contradictions in the regulatory
process. A focus on meta-regulation asks questions of what we consider
legitimate and acceptable approaches to rule making and rule implementation.
Recent scholarship also points towards a trend
of experimentation in regulatory governance. The observed trend of
experimentation fits a long tradition of experimentalism in policy-design and
evidence-based policymaking. This trend towards experimentation acknowledges
that many of today’s regulatory challenges are too complex to address with
traditional regulatory interventions and that conventional, generic,
one-size-fits-all regulatory interventions easily result in under- or over-regulation.
Key to experimentation in regulatory
governance is a careful exploration of tailored interventions that are both
informed by and adapted to their immediate context To this end, experiments
seek to draw lessons about outcomes that may be expected when the experiment is
formalised and included in future policy.
As we take our last backward-glancing steps
towards the future of regulation, we can see that from the 1960s onwards major
changes can be observed in the design and development of regulatory regimes. From
the early 1960s onward, we have observed a finetuning of these new regimes and
instruments, and an ongoing mixing and matching of different regulatory philosophies
and theories in both the institutional and instrumental sides of regulatory
governance. The current trends in regulatory reform focus on higher levels of
abstraction through meta-regulation as well as a more ‘scientific’ approach to
regulatory reform through formal experiments.
But now let’s take a turn and look to the future.
How can the knowledge that we have gained in the past help to address the main
regulatory challenges we face today? And more practically, what is it that I
aim to contribute to addressing those challenges as Chair in Regulatory
In this inaugural lecture, I have aimed to
contribute to a better understanding of regulation as an essential part of our
society. We have, so far, explored the history of regulation, in all of its
great leaps of progress and in all the ways it is still beset with problems.
But a pressing question remains: what is it that we are pursuing here?
Before answering the question how to move
forward, we must also answer the question why regulation is (or is not)
essential for society as we know it.
Recall, regulation and particularly regulatory
regimes are a main part of how we humans have overcome our biological
limitations to social cooperation.
What we are seeking, then, is a sum greater
than the parts: a meta-order that serves as the backbone and fenceline, compass
and codebook, fiber and fabric, of liberal democratic society.
Nevertheless, when reviewing the literature there
appear as many arguments in favor of regulation and regulatory governance as
there are arguments against it.
Let’s explore a few of the most recurring
First, a set of recurring economics arguments.
Economic regulation is seen as necessary to
prevent monopolies, and to set market entry controls and price controls as a
means to ensure that consumers have sufficient access to quality and affordable
goods and services. It is also seen as necessary to reduce information
asymmetries between producers and consumers.
Economic regulation is further seen as
necessary to reduce negative externalities. Negative externalities are the
costs of production that affects parties who did not choose to incur that cost—for
example, carbon emissions from production and consumption. Private law,
criminal law, and tort law are then considered too limited to address these
failures as already discussed.
In addition, these forms of justice operate ex-post meaning that harm will only be
remedied after it has occurred. The latter is particularly problematic when the
harm cannot be easily undone such as fatalities or climate change.
Finally, economic regulation is seen as
necessary to regulate the markets that were restructured in the 1980s and 1990s,
as well as to introduce checks and balances to the privatisation and
liberalisation of public services, such as public utilities in the same time.
The typical counter-argument is that
government should leave the market to itself because market forces are better
at efficiently allocating scarce resources – the ‘laissez-faire, laissez-passer’
argument. Competition between producers is then expected to improve the quality
of products and services and bring down prices; and the profitability of a
market segment is expected to attract new suppliers which will naturally break situations
of (near) monopoly.
A second recurring argument is that
regulation is required for achieving social solidarity and security.
This idea builds on principles of equal
opportunity and equal distribution of wealth, a moral responsibility of humans
to support others in getting the minimal provisions for a good life, and the
expectation that reducing poverty will reduce the need of those in need to
engage in criminal activities to get access to wealth.
Government regulation is seen here as required,
because many who have wealth will not voluntarily give this up to those who do
not have it, and checks and balances need to be in place to ensure wealth is
The typical counter-arguments are that
(redistributive) welfare regulation provides disincentives to contribute to
society and unjustly taxes those who create added value to society, and that
market-based alternatives to social security yield more efficient outcomes.
A third recurring argument is that
regulation is required to, on the one hand, unburden the justice system and, on
the other hand, strengthen the constitutional separation of powers.
If every breach of law had to be processed by
the justice system, it would be unnecessarily burdened.
In addition, some argue, the broadening of
regulatory agencies and organisations adds additional checks and balances to
the constitutional solution of separating powers between the executive,
legislature, and judiciary.
The typical counter-argument is that
regulation puts too much power in the hands of appointed rather than elected
individuals. Regulators, after all, often contribute to the legislature through
rule-making, to the judiciary through adjudication, and to the executive
through monitoring and enforcement.
A fourth, and for here final, recurring
argument is that some regulatory interventions and limitations of individual
liberty are for the greater good.
Whilst humans have long been ‘modelled’ as rational,
utility maximizing entities in economics and policy making, ongoing research
has indicated that often we do not make choices in our own best interest because
we lack the information for doing so, the capacity or time to process this
information, or are simply biased towards a specific choice.
Regulation may help to prevent people from
making choices that harm themselves and guide them towards the choice that is
in their own best interest, or prevent poor choices by excluding or prohibiting
all suboptimal options.
The typical counter-argument against such
paternalistic regulation is that the freedom to err is an essential part of
liberty, and that without making mistakes, we will not be able to learn and
In short, a variety of economic, social,
institutional, and behavioural arguments have been brought to the fore in
support of or against regulatory interventions that in one way or the other
involve government. All these arguments have been in a state of conflict, or at
least anxious co-existence for more than two centuries now. And these
conflicting arguments will, likely, drive innovations
in the future regulatory agenda as well.
So, what is it that this future agenda should
address? What exactly are today’s main regulatory challenges? Well, that is a
question of great debate as well, as you might have guessed.
The academic literature is highly dispersed
and mainly discusses detailed challenges in specific examples of regulation. The
grey literature is a little more coherent in what the core regulatory
challenges are, but the language it uses is perhaps a little too general for my
purposes here today. Still, when taking a close look at both literatures some
key challenges stand out.
Time and again, the literature points to:
The challenges of allocating limited
regulatory resources in a transparent, just and effective manner.
The challenges of growing scepticism towards
The challenges that come with often siloed and
divergent regulatory agencies at international, national and local levels.
The challenges of regulating disruptive and
fast-moving technology such as data privacy, cybersecurity, and the internet of
The challenges of creating sound knowledge on
regulatory models and systems.
The challenges of ethical enforcement practice
and the difficulty of frontline regulators to maintain good conduct within the
discretionary space they have been given.
The challenges of responding to regulatory
failure and restoring public trust in the regulatory system.
The challenge of ongoing regulatory innovation
and how that may go against one of the key ambitions of regulation: to create
And, of course, the challenges that come with
using regulatory governance as an approach to address climate change and
increase the resilience of communities, cities and nations.
But for now, and for the sake of time, I wish
to focus on just three of these challenges and discuss how I seek to contribute
to solving them as the Chair in Regulatory Practice.
The first challenge is that, unfortunately,
regulation is often not considered in a positive light; particularly regulation
in which government is in one way or other involved.
Policymakers fear the backlash from their voters
when suggesting to address harms and risks through regulation. Large and small
firms consider government-involved regulations as hampering business and
Citizens look at government-involved
regulation as another example of how the nanny state seeks to influence all
aspects of their private lives. Often, such regulation gets a bad rap in
public, private and policy debates—and so do the public servants involved in
the development, implementation and review of regulation.
I would argue, however, that this bad rap is
unjustified, and is often the result of a poor understanding of what regulation
is and what it could be.
However, I can see at least two causes of this
skepticism: First, regulation is often not well understood by the public at
large. Here the Chair in Regulatory Practice may help tell a more nuanced story
about regulation and increase the regulatory literacy of the public at large.
Public seminars, like the one today, are
helpful in doing so, but other outlets are helpful too. For example, I am
maintaining a blog to highlight that regulation is not all restrictions and
limitations, but has tremendous value. The blog is also an excellent outlet to
share the best examples of easily accessible academic literature with the
public at large.
Second, we have learnt from the past that
regulators are in an exceptionally difficult position. A challenge for
regulators is to justify the costs of regulation when things are calm and
justify their actions when regulatory failure occurs. Good regulatory practice
and not-so-good regulatory practice are assessed against different standards.
A solution here would be better storytelling
by regulators. Strategically selected and shared stories about regulatory
success can have wide ripple effects. Through my engagement with the regulatory
community in Aotearoa, I seek to tease out these success stories and share them
with the wider public.
A second main challenge that we are facing is
limited and sometimes poor regulatory knowledge.
Much of what we know of regulation—its
development, implementation, practice and outcomes—comes from a relatively
small number of real-world examples.
When overviewing the history of regulation and
the history of regulatory scholarship I observe that the modest knowledge base
we have often gets too much credit, and some regulatory solutions, have seen
more following than is warranted by the scientific evidence.
To illustrate this point, I often see much
confident nodding when I bring up the regulatory pyramids of John Braithwaite—particularly
when I present these to a regulatory practitioner audience. Few will challenge
the basic assumption underpinning the model: that regulatory flexibility will
yield better and more cost-efficient compliance outcomes than regulatory
rigidity. There is great normative appeal to this assumption.
But how much empirical evidence do we have
that this regulatory model outperforms others? While the book Responsive
Regulation, from which this model comes, is cited close to 5,000 times, only a
handful of studies seek to understand its performance in real-world settings. This
limited empirical knowledge base is pervasive in regulatory scholarship.
The lack of sound knowledge on what works and
what does not is problematic for the future of regulatory practice and
regulatory scholarship. If the knowledge base is poor, how can we build strong
regulatory systems on top of it?
As Chair in Regulatory Practice, I have
therefore begun to map, explore and interrogate the regulatory knowledge base. To
this end, I carry out systematic reviews of the academic literature on key
regulatory topics and ask: what do we know of this topic, how valid is that knowledge,
and what are the most important lessons for regulatory practice and regulatory
theory? Through a series of working papers and workshops, I communicate this
knowledge with the regulatory practice community, and ultimately, I aim to
bring the various findings together in a book for academia and practice.
The third and final challenge I wish to
touch on today is regulatory innovation.
The common thread running through the history
of regulatory governance is an eagerness for regulatory innovation.
Yet, to speak with the great sociologist Norbert
Elias, this thread, the orderly regulatory innovation that we have observed
over time, ‘is neither “rational”—if by “rational” we mean that it has resulted
intentionally from the purposive deliberation of individual people; nor
“irrational”—if by “irrational” we mean that it has arisen in an
I quote Elias here because, I feel, academics
and regulatory practitioners alike often read too much regarding and read too
much into the ‘deliberate’ processes of regulatory innovation and too little
regarding and into the ‘non-deliberate’ day-to-day changing of regulatory
practice within the discretionary space that regulators often have.
An area that has had substantially less
attention in regulatory reform is regulatory practice and the day-to-day
choices made by regulatory frontline workers. Frontline regulators, in
particular, have considerable discretionary space in their day-to-day
application of regulation. How regulators use their personal agency does have
an effect on the outcomes of regulation.
Thus, rather than seeking reform in the
machinery-of-government-side of regulation, as basically all reforms up to
today have done, another way forward may be to reform, or at least to rethink,
the personal agency that regulators have. A focus on the opportunities and
constraints of such agency in regulatory practice asks us to move beyond
considering regulation in mechanistic terms and instead think about what we
expect of those in power when designing and implementing regulatory regimes.
It is important to acknowledge that the major
paradigm shifts in regulatory governance—responsive regulation, risk
regulation, behaviour-informed regulation, and so on—all appear to be the result
of very gradual day-to-day changes at the level of regulatory practice; the
typical pragmatic solutions chosen at the regulatory frontlines. The results of
these minor changes were, ultimately, recognized by academics who then, looking
backward, have distilled the analytical models that help move us forward today.
With that in mind, I am not saying that we
should stop our deliberate processes of regulatory innovation. We may, however,
wish to become a little more appreciative of what is happening at the
regulatory frontlines. The regulatory frontlines are the largest regulatory
action laboratory that we have. We need to systematically observe what is
happening at the regulatory frontlines, find what we can learn, and then
question how we can scale the most promising practices.
This is indeed a task that I wholeheartedly
embrace as Professor of Public Governance and Chair in Regulatory Practice here
at Victoria University.
Again, those are but three of the main
regulatory challenges that I see coming in the years ahead. It is exciting to
be in a country and working with a group of regulators that are eager to
address these and other challenges.
And with that, I’m nearing the end of my
But before I end, some words of thanks.
First, many thanks to the Government Regulatory
Practice Initiative, the Treasury and the Victoria University of Wellington for
appointing me. It is an absolute honour to be the inaugural Chair in Regulatory
Many thanks also to all colleagues past and
present in Australia, particularly the School of Regulation and Global
Governance (also known as RegNet), a string of institutions in the Netherlands,
the Victoria Business School in Aotearoa, and a variety of academic organisations
elsewhere for supporting me on the journey that has led me to where I am today.
And here I wish to say a special thank you to all administrative staff that has
supported me and made my academic endeavors all the more easy.
But of the uncountable number of people that
have helped me over the years, Professor Peter May at the University of
Washington, Seattle, USA, deserves special thanks. Peter, without your early
and ongoing support in my academic career I would not have made it this far.
Many thanks as well for unlimited and ongoing
support from my family in the Netherlands, my dad and mum, and my brother, who
unfortunately cannot be here today in person, but who have been present through
the live stream. I am very glad they were able to share this moment with me.
Many thanks also to my good friends in the
Netherlands—Joost, Joachiem, Meert—and my friends in Australia and here in
Aotearoa for all the support and understanding you have given me over the last
several years. Again, without all your support, I would not be here today.
Last, but certainly not least, many, many
thanks to Olga for teaming up with me and for joining me on this antipodean
adventure. I truly cannot put into words how much I appreciate the enormous
sacrifice you have made to make this possible for me.
And to you, ladies and gentlemen of the
audience, thank you.
Ik heb gezegd,
Waiho ma te tangata e mihi.