Former World Bank Senior Advisor calls for rethink of regulation to inform good democratic governance

27 November 2014
Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics Frank Vibert urged us to rethink the role of regulation within democracies, in a lecture held at the Social Science Building last week entitled ‘The New Regulatory Space: Reframing Democratic Governance’.
 
Frank Vibert, a former Senior Advisor to the World Bank, outlined a new approach that questions the orthodox view that regulation is an inferior and potentially damaging form of social coordination that marginalizes the agency of the individual and limits the effectiveness of the market. 
 
Drawing on the theory behind his latest book, published earlier this year, he argued that policymakers should give greater recognition to the interconnected and interdependent systems of social coordination that influence democratic governance. These systems, including the market, the law, regulation, and civil society, are constantly evolving, and bring about a regulatory space of much greater complexity than has thus far been accounted for. 
 
In asking the question: Whose voice counts?, Mr Vibert argued that regulators play an important role in a crucial aspect of democratic gevernance — that of safeguarding equal voice. He cited the regulators who inspect, for instance, University admissions policies or access to NHS services, to show how they can be integral to the protection of the fundamental principles of equal access to health care and education.
 
The regulators who inspect, for instance, University admissions policies or access to NHS services can be integral to the protection of the fundamental principles of equal access to health care and education
 
Mr Vibert made a particularly convincing case for the unique value of regulation in democratic governance, by identifying that regulators serve to correct a general bias toward the status quo that other actors in democratic systems tend to perpetuate. Moreover, he argued that regulatory systems, by their nature, provide a more forward-looking approach to help guide democratic governance than either politics, the law, or the market.  
 
Politicians, he argued, rarely look beyond the next election; the law is ruled by precedent; and, while the market is an inherently forward-looking system, it expresses its forecasts in the severely restricted terms of price – whereas regulators convey their estimates about the future through policy-relevant advice that can help shape balanced, long-term political decision-making.
 
While the market expresses its forecasts in the severely restricted terms of price, regulators convey their estimates about the future through policy-relevant advice that can help shape balanced, long-term political decision-making
 
Mr Vibert’s thesis can be explored in greater depth in an article he has written for our Opinion Piece pages, and his book on the New Regulatory Space is available to order from the Edward Elgar website
 
A podcast of the lecture will be available to download from our Podcasts page in the next week.