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Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D.

Can we control the state through various policy instruments?

Regulations, incentives, and privatization are all examples of policy instruments used to control the state. What policy instruments are available to policymakers and to what extent do they work? In particular, we will focus on the responsibilities and conduct of the FDA and EPA.

Quotes of the Day

Christine Todd Whitman worked as EPA Administrator from 2001-2003. Prior to that, Whitman served as the 50th Governor of New Jersey. There are more than 100 Federal agencies and, according to the Office of Management and Budget, around 500,000 new government rules are issued annually. Whitman faced the challenge of writing rules accepted by both business and environmental interests.

“I believe that the intransigence on both extremes of the environmental debate is preventing significant progress that might be made if there was less fixation on doing away with all regulations on one side and with writing more and more regulations on the other, and that a more sincere effort is needed to promote positive economic incentives for businesses to make improvements. As we saw under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and its success in reducing acid rain, policies that reward early compliance and provide flexibility in how business meets tough environmental standards can produce real results. Such efforts allow businesses to remain economically competitive without sacrificing our continued advancement toward a cleaner environment and a healthier society....

There is no doubt that compromise on the environment is perhaps more difficult today than at any time in the past thirty-five years, and there is plenty of blame to go around.”

Christine Todd Whitman, It's My Party Too, 2005, The Penguin Press.

“It is difficult to understand the scope of contemporary regulation without having some background on the metamorphosis of the regulatory state, which, the federal government itself now concedes, affects "virtually all individuals, businesses, State, local, and tribal governments, and other organizations in virtually every aspect of their lives or operations." There are more than one hundred federal agencies with subagencies and departments under them, and they complete about four thousand five hundred new rules annually according to the Office of Management and Budget.”

Cindy Skrzycki, The Regulators: Anonymous Power Brokers in American Politics, 2003, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Discussion Questions

What are some justifications for regulations, particularly as they pertain to environmental issues? Can you think of examples of environmental regulations where people generally agree on the scope of the problem but differ on the appropriate government response? Can you think of a regulatory dilemma in your own life that might be remedied by more or less regulation?


  • Paul Quirk. Chap. 6: Food and Drug Administration, and Alfred Marcus, Chap. 8: Environmental Protection Agency, The Politics of Regulation, James Q.Wilson ed, Basic Books, 1980
  • Stephen Breyer. Chap. 1, Typical Justifications for Regulation, Regulation and Its Reform. Harvard University Press, 1982.
  • Elinor Ostrom. Chap. 1, Reflections on the commons, Governing the Commons. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Case Application: a single food safety agency? water trading rights?

  • Julie Caswell. "Too Many Cooks," Forum, Summer 2001.
  • Suzie Greenhalgh & Paul Faeth. "Trading on Water," Forum, Spring 2001.

Policy Exercise #2 due

Please see the Assignments folder for this course. It includes the assignment along with student examples.