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Translating Regulatory Scholarship Into Policy

Translating Regulatory Scholarship Into Policy

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The Kenan faculty workshop looks to get its scholarship into the hands of policymakers

To outsiders, the idea of regulatory scholarship may sound as interesting as a day spent studying the Federal Register, the notoriously dry official publication for federal rules. However, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse, these scholars were ready with ideas that ended up shaping a critical national debate.

In 2007, Ed Balleisen was working on regulatory governance with an interdisciplinary collection of national scholars as part of the Tobin Project. Harvard professor David Moss founded the organization to encourage scholars to ask challenging social, political and economic questions.

The initiative helped Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren refine ideas that ultimately led to the creation of the new federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, one of the government's key responses to the 2008 economics collapse. Warren's scholarship was included in a Tobin-published book co-edited by Balleisen titled "Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation."  As her controversial ideas ultimately became policy, Warren herself became a lightning rod for criticism and was prevented from serving as the bureau's first director.  She now is running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.

The Tobin Project became the template for the Duke effort launched two years ago by Balleisen and the Kenan Institute for Ethics. The workshop regularly meets with people involved in the regulatory process on topics such as launching new regulatory agencies, reimagining strategies for injecting democratic participation into the regulatory process and tailoring appropriate regulatory responses to crises.

"Our discussions have benefited enormously from getting the perspectives of regulatory protagonists," Balleisen said.  "At the same time, such interactions give us the chance to us get our own ideas out into the world and before the eyes and ears of decision-makers."