Pyramids and the value of generality


Correspondence: Pauline Westerman, Department of Legal Theory, Faculty of Law, University of Groningen, P.O.Box 716, 9700 AS Groningen, The Netherlands. Email:


Responsive Regulation advocates a differentiated style of regulation and enforcement that is more responsive to the behavior of the regulated parties than a system of general or uniform rules. This article investigates whether such a differentiated approach can be reconciled with the traditional ideal of general law. On the basis of a conceptual analysis of generality, it is argued that the notion of generality is at best tautological and not inconsistent with a differentiated approach to regulation and enforcement. However, the value of generality is based on the assumption that rules function as reasons, rather than as instructions. As reasons, rules need not comprise large categories, but they do need to last for a long period of time. The conclusion drawn is that flexibility (rather than differentiation) is hard to reconcile with the notion of rules as reasons, although it may be demanded by a notion of rules as effective implementers of policies.