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Regulatory Agencies—The Challenges of Balancing Agency Autonomy and Political Control



In this article we focus on the dynamic interplay between increase in autonomy of regulatory agencies and political control of those agencies. The general research issues are the weak empirical foundations of regulatory reforms, the complex trade-off between political control and agency autonomy, the dual process of deregulation and reregulation, the problems of role-specialization and coordination, and the questions of “smart practice” in regulatory policy and practice. The theoretical basis is agency theories and a broad institutional approach that blend national political strategies, historical-cultural context, and external pressures to understand regulatory agencies and regulatory reform. This approach is contrasted with a practitioner model of agencies. Empirically the article is based on regulatory reform in Norway, giving a brief introduction to the reform and agency context followed by an analysis of the radical regulatory reform policy introduced recently by the current Norwegian government. We illustrate how regulatory reforms and agencies work in practice by focusing on two specific cases on homeland security and telecommunications.