Structured to Fail? Explaining Regulatory Performance under Competing Mandates

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Structured to Fail? Explaining Regulatory Performance under Competing Mandates

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Title: Structured to Fail? Explaining Regulatory Performance under Competing Mandates
Author: Carrigan, Christopher
Citation: Carrigan, Christopher. 2012. Structured to Fail? Explaining Regulatory Performance under Competing Mandates. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Following each of three major disasters--the financial crisis, the Gulf oil spill, and the nuclear meltdown in Japan--policymakers responded by overhauling the associated regulatory infrastructure. In each case, the response was intended to sharpen the regulator's focus, predicated on the widely held view that asking an agency to satisfy both regulatory and non-regulatory roles induces organizational conflict and impedes performance. In this dissertation, I put this commonly accepted belief about agency structure to the test by analyzing the behavior of regulators also assigned significant, non-regulatory functions. Incorporating data on a broad set of U.S. federal agencies, I first establish that the conventional wisdom holds some truth: Regulators that combine purposes do not perform as well. Even so, through a mix of statistical analyses, formal modeling, and an in-depth study of the former U.S. offshore oil and gas regulator, the Minerals Management Service, I show that assigning regulatory and non-regulatory functions to one agency can, in some cases, still be better than dividing them between agencies. I demonstrate that while the goal ambiguity and conflict introduced by combining roles does impact behavior, overemphasizing this issue misses several important factors affecting regulators tasked with non-regulatory aims. These factors explain both how regulators operate when charged with achieving other goals and why these multiple-purpose mandates persist. First, although the goals may conflict, the underlying tasks supporting these divergent purposes may still require extensive coordination. Second, even within agencies, introducing features that encourage separation between the affected groups can allow regulators to manage ambiguity, but these efforts can simultaneously exacerbate difficulties in achieving synergies generated through Professor Daniel Paul Carpenter Christopher Michael Carrigan close contact. Third, even when the conditions for conflict are present, political and public preferences—and not just internal factors—can play important roles in shaping agency priorities. Fourth, broader social, industry, and environmental shifts can attenuate or accentuate the organizational tension that exists between managing goal ambiguity while encouraging underlying coordination. In sum, only by recognizing roles for a diverse set of forces—operations, organization, politics, and environment—can the existence, behavior, and performance of regulatory agencies that balance non-regulatory mandates be logically explained.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9367009
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