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Regulation is "controlling human or societal behavior by rules or restrictions."[1] Regulation can take many forms: legal restrictions promulgated by a government authority, self-regulation by an industry such as through a trade association, social regulation (e.g. norms), co-regulation and market regulation. One can consider regulation as actions of conduct imposing sanctions (such as a fine). This action of administrative law, or implementing regulatory law, may be contrasted with statutory or case law.

Regulation mandated by a state attempts to produce outcomes which might not otherwise occur, produce or prevent outcomes in different places to what might otherwise occur, or produce or prevent outcomes in different timescales than would otherwise occur. In this way, regulations can be seen as implementation artifacts of policy statements. Common examples of regulation include controls on market entries, prices, wages, Development approvals, pollution effects, employment for certain people in certain industries, standards of production for certain goods, the military forces and services. The economics of imposing or removing regulations relating to markets is analysed in regulatory economics.


Types of regulation

Regulations, like any other form of coercive action, have costs for some and benefits for others. Efficient regulations are defined as those where the total benefits to some people exceed the total costs to others.

Regulations are justified using a variety of reasons and therefore can be classified in several broad categories:

  • Market failures - regulation due to inefficiency. Intervention due to a classical economics argument to market failure.
  • Collective desires - regulation about collective desires or considered judgments on the part of a significant segments of society
  • Diverse experiences - regulation with a view of eliminating or enhancing opportunities for the formation of diverse preferences and beliefs
  • Social subordination - regulation aimed to increase or reduce social subordination of various social groups
  • Endogenous preferences - regulation's purpose is to affect the development of certain preferences on an aggregate level
  • Irreversibility - regulation that deals with the problem of irreversibility – the problem in which a certain type of conduct from current generations results in outcomes from which future generations may not recover from at all.
  • Interest group transfers - regulation that results from efforts by self-interest groups to redistribute wealth in their favor, which may disguise itself as one or more of the justifications above.

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