Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Cristie Ford]

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



regulation, Welfare State, Regulatory State, innovation


The next few years in regulatory history will be pivotal.

On one hand, we are witnessing renewed interest in robust state action in the economy and society. Battered by a poorly managed global pandemic and the undeniable persistence of racism and discrimination; terrified about the consequences of climate change; having suffered through years of political tumult and populist anger following a disastrous financial crisis; and having recognized once again that there is more to a person’s value than their economic productivity – it seems clear that over recent decades, public policy swung too far away from the humane, collective, and dignity-affirming priorities that underpinned the postwar Welfare State.

At the same time, we know that we cannot simply return to the mid-twentieth century. Innovation is too fast-moving now, and conditions too complex and heterogeneous, to imagine that a replica of the postwar Welfare State would function property. Regulation operates at the front lines of policy now. And today, some of the greatest challenges that regulation faces stem from the speed, extent, and nature of human-driven change. Workable twenty-first century regulatory models will have to contend with the destabilizing, ongoing effects of innovation.

After reviewing some Welfare State and Regulatory State history, this chapter suggests that innovation raises three fundamental analytical problems for regulation: information and data problems, visibility problems, and legibility problems. It then sets out five regulatory priorities that will be essential, if a forceful contemporary state is to be resilient in the face of innovation, while maintaining credibility and agency in the service of public priorities.

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