Why do regulatory organizations fail? - Understanding Society Blog

Instead, his analysis of regulatory failure depends on a different set of axes: interests , influence , and power . Regulatory agencies fail, in Perrow’s accounts, when their top administrators have bureaucratic interests and dependencies that diverge from the mission of safety, when powerful outsiders and owners have the capacity to influence rules, policies, and implementation, and when political and economic power is deployed to protect the interests of powerful actors.

Technically, ‘was’. He passed away in November which seems to have escaped the blogger’s notice for this December posting.

And I don’t think it’s a secret that regulatory agencies are likely to fail where constrained by multiple factors. Or even when completely unrestrained. Not everything is capable of control no matter how diligent safety agencies or even company management systems are.

What do you mean by “regulatory failure”? Individual accidents are not necessarily a result of regulatory failure. Nobody would reasonably expect a zero accident rate. Except perhaps in the case of major failures at nuclear power plants or the like.

I would take it to mean the agencies involved to have failed in some systemic way, the failure in a more broad sense to carry out the regulatory function.

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I think we absolutely agree on the concepts of regulatory failure and a zero failure rate being unlikely.

This is where a certain amount of nuance comes in—the confluence of legal objective, legal authority, means to enforce etc… a regulatory agency doesn’t fail unless it’s given a mandate and tools by relevant legal authority to accomplish. So, is it failure if the agency doesn’t have all that it needs or the body standing behind the agency? So how does one define such performance? What methods if any are provided to appropriately identify it? Ultimately the entire system must be a statement of the complete run of responsibility from the point of contact in an accident to the highest levels charge with the legal authorities. The limitations on the various agencies are based on their ability to control the system involved, degraded by the factors that can impede any function of government.

What, exactly is your point with the link and how do you feel it supports some argument you think we’re having?

And from your link, do you really think any kind of liberal position involves deregulation as the poster relates when he says:

”Here is Perrow’s summary assessment about the relationship between regulatory failure and catastrophe:

Almost every major industrial accident in recent times has involved either regulatory failure or the deregulation demanded by business and industry. For more examples, see Perrow (2011). It is hard to make the case that the industries involved have failed to innovate because of federal regulation; in particular, I know of no innovations in the safety area that were stifled by regulation. Instead, we have a deregulated state and deregulated capitalism, and rising environmental problems accompanied by growing income and wealth inequality. (210)

In short, we seem to be at the beginning of an important reveal of the cost of neoliberal efforts to minimize regulation and to pass the responsibility for safety significantly to the manufacturer.“

Can you elucidate the concept that industrial accident takes lead to deregulation?

FDA opioid regulation:

FDA and Opioids


Perhaps I was unclear on the obscure posting of links to support ones position…

So, your point is? And how does this link support it?

Just more data on regulatory failure.


Is it? Cause the thesis du jour is that there is no reasonable zero rate and thus all of them have to be weighed in the spectrum of the ability of a regulatory agency to control them, which can certainly be defeated by certain forms of capture or perhaps inadequate support either legislatively or materially, but yeah—post a link of something bad that happened. Solid analysis.

Sorry, my tired old brain is incapable of deciphering your last contribution. Could you do me the favor of recasting it?



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Request denied, the thread is the thread. Which was about a blog, which interestingly enough was based on twenty year old books. But let me restate something simple for a later part of the thread—which do you feel— liberal or conservative—positions are more about deregulation?

vessel classification society’s are a good example
they make there income from new builds where they bid with the competition the lowest price and do what the owner says. Then whatever cockup gets signed off never gets fixed.
They are in a business where the shorter a ships life the better off they are…
Class needs to be gov owned

i would recommend the recent book “Goliath” by Matt Stoller. He goes into the history of what happened to those agencies that were established to protect the citizens. It is interesting. What is happening now is not illegal, quite the contrary it was planned. Most people reading gCaptain do not remember or they were not alive when anti-trust acts were enforced and monopolies were broken up due to the power they held which was considered a threat to democracy and the average citizen. Geez…now people are so brainwashed they buy into the fact that they must “tighten their belt” so that the corporatists can win a trade war which will surely not benefit anyone but the corporatists.
Now you have to train our replacement right before you collect your unemployment. Tighten your belt for the good of the country !


cant wait for the gov to say to tend for contracts you have to employ Americans


I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that as the “government” does not care for Americans, they are too expensive. But the “government” keeps getting reelected so perhaps the fault lies within the electorate.

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On a new build (after class selection) they “do what the shipyard says” until delivery. And pretty shamelessly too.


Suit yourself. Discussion of regulation are essentially moot because there is effectively no longer any regulation in this country. And I have no interest in questions that are framed in poorly defined and politically loaded terms.

For the record, I find the blog naive. I also do not fully agree with Perrow’s position on safety regulation. I agree with concept of normal accidents but do not agree that in today’s environment a significant number of them can be prevented by any external regulatory regime, no matter how powerful and independent.

I say this because I believe that we have evolved into a state where moral hazard is both a feasible and attractive basis for a business model. As long as institutions and individuals in authority are isolated from the consequences of their actions, they will heedlessly pile risk upon risk in pursuit of economic efficiency until people die. Each quantum of risk is sufficiently small, and its significance is sufficiently obscure when examined out of context, that the sequence cannot be understood until somebody walks the cat backwards from the wreckage and the pile of corpses. There is no point in the process of cranking up the risk where it is reasonable to expect that any regulatory body would be able to step in and say “whoa, stop right there.”

This is true of Boeing and the MAX, it is true of BP and Texas City as well as Deepwater Horizon, it is true of TOTE and the El Faro and it will continue to be true until moral hazard is eliminated from high-consequence activities.



I think these statements show a lack of experience with regulation on a practical basis. Every time a CG officer issues an 835, That’s regulation that’s setting an upper limit on risk. And it doesn’t even take the participation of the agency, when the port captain replaces expired flares or a fire extinguisher with a proper model replacement—that’s regulation. Insurance policies which one would think are part of the moral hazard dilemmas you note, rely on presumptions of compliance to regulations failing which the claims will not be honored. Regulation exists. And it is generally effective despite bad things happening.

“Moral hazard” is, in my opinion, a reality of many company management culture(s) but also of the regulatory authorities themselves i.e. the U.S. Coast Guard, the classification societies and the Flag-States. Politics and pandering takes precedent over the safety of the vessel personnel. This lack of ethics and integrity is disgraceful. Ultimately, it is the safety of the mariner that suffers.

I would respectfully request you to read the “open letter” contained in the above link and view the attached videos where a man almost gets crushed to death.