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Is better regulation smarter regulation?

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The quest for “better” regulation is one being driven forward with a new urgency within the United Kingdom, the European Union and by international bodies such as the OECD. In this country, regulatory improvement strategies have been applied by governments for nearly 20 years and it is now appropriate to consider whether the better regulation movement is founded on secure approaches and assumptions; whether it is heading in the right conceptual direction, and, more particularly, whether it conduces to “smarter” regulatory regimes--regimes that offer the best mixtures of regulatory instruments and institutions.1 This article outlines the development of the better regulation movement within government, it describes the regulatory improvement tools that governments have deployed in furthering that movement, and then it considers the capacity of the “better regulation” approach to deliver smarter regulation. It will be argued that there are a number of identifiable reasons--practical and theoretical--why the better regulation movement may not readily conduce to the production of “smarter” regulatory policies and regimes.

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