Testing responsive regulation in regulatory enforcement

Authors

  • Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Aarhus C, Denmark
      Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Bartholins Allé 7, DK-8000, Aarhus C, Denmark. Email: vln@ps.au.dk
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  • Christine Parker

    1. Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
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Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Bartholins Allé 7, DK-8000, Aarhus C, Denmark. Email: vln@ps.au.dk

Abstract

The policy ideals of responsive regulation have been developed on the basis of substantial empirical evidence. The overall formulation of responsive regulation theory itself, however, has rarely been empirically tested. This article sets out the theoretical concept of responsive regulation in the context of business regulation enforcement and discusses how we might operationalize and empirically measure it. We develop two alternative theoretical interpretations of responsive regulatory enforcement: “tit for tat” responsive regulation and “restorative justice” responsive regulation. We then measure business firms' perceptions of the reactions and counter-reactions of a regulatory enforcement agency throughout the investigation and enforcement process. We find little evidence of tit for tat responsiveness actually occurring in practice. To the extent that tit for tat responsiveness does exist, we find a small amount of evidence that it has the hypothesized effects on behavior but not on attitudes. We find clearer evidence of restorative justice responsiveness having the hypothesized effects on attitudes but not on behavior.

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