More than Mere Dead-Weight: The Variety of Ways that Regulators, Innovators, and Entrepreneurs Co-Create Disruptive Technological Innovation in Advanced Industrial Democracies
Goal: It has become cliché to note the speed of technological change and lament the inability of social and legal institutions to keep up. One phalanx of this narrative brandishes the word “disrupt” to storm the halls of stodgy industries and regulatory agencies intent on dismantling them. Yet despite this modern narrative of disruption, significant technological change is not the invention of the past year, decade or generation. Despite neoliberal and libertarian narratives which prompt disruptive entrepreneurs to use regulation as the foulest profanity to decry state inadequacy, regulators have adapted to technological change each time it arose. Although sometimes inadequate and never perfect, these adaptations invariably happened.
Failure is loud, success is quiet. Regulatory failures like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and 2008 Global Financial Crisis are loudly publicized. Much quieter are regulatory responses which are something other than failure like American recombinant DNA regulation following the 1975 Asilomar Conference. This mismatch reinforces a folk understanding of regulators as destined to fail. Worse yet, loud proclamations of inept regulators’ inevitable failure often create failures when alternative rhetoric could avoid them.
We need to understand the range of regulatory responses not just the spectacular failures. Thus, this project asks how do regulators respond to disruptive technological innovations (DTIs) and why do particular regulatory regimes choose particular responses to particular disruptive innovations?
To answer this question, this project develops a novel qualitative empirical method which combines deductive typological theory with logical Bayesianism to deductively develop and inductively refine a seven-model typology of regulatory response to DTI. This typology provides a conceptually complete and empirically validated map of the range of ways that regulators can respond to disruptive technological innovation. This demonstration of variation should finally dispel pernicious narratives of inherently incompetent regulators by demonstrating that they can be more than merely dead-weight.
Date: 30 August 2015