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Historical perspective and better regulatory governance: An agenda for institutional reform

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Abstract

Compared to economics, sociology, political science, and law, the discipline of history has had a limited role in the wide-ranging efforts to reconsider strategies of regulatory governance, especially inside regulatory institutions. This article explores how more sustained historical perspective might improve regulatory decisionmaking. We first survey how a set of American regulatory agencies currently rely on historical research and analysis, whether for the purposes of public relations or as a means of supporting policymaking. We then consider how regulatory agencies might draw on history more self-consciously, more strategically, and to greater effect. Three areas stand out in this regard – the use of history to improve understanding of institutional culture; reliance on historical analysis to test the empirical plausibility of conceptual models that make assumptions about the likelihood of potential economic outcomes; and integration of historical research methods into program and policy evaluation.

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