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Explaining risk regulation regimes: exploring the 'minimal feasible response' hypothesis

By Christopher Hood, Henry Rothstein, Michael Spackman, Judith Rees and Robert Baldwin


This paper provides an analytic description of four health-related risk regulation regimes in the UK (governing radon in the home, dangerous dogs outside the home, pesticide residues in food and water, and ambient benzene). It compares observed state activity for information-gathering, standard-setting and behaviour modification or enforcement in those four regimes with what would be expected from the standpoint of a 'minimal feasible response' hypothesis. Such a hypothesis assumes state activity will consist of the minimal level of intervention needed to correct specific failures in market or tort-law processes (where the costs of informing oneself about risks or opting out of risks through market or civil law methods are very high). Only one out of the four cases (dogs) fits the minimal feasible response hypothesis (and even that not completely), and observed regimes differ from the minimal feasible response pattern in terms of both greater-than-expected and lesser-than-expected regulation. These variations allow the influence of two different shapers of risk regulation regimes ('responsive government', reflecting public and media opinion, and 'client politics', reflecting the best-organized interest groups) to be explored. Both factors appear to shape observed risk regulation regimes, though in some cases they pull in opposite directions

Topics: HD61 Risk Management, RA Public aspects of medicine
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1080/13698579908407015
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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