Most scholarly edited volumes are narrow and intensely academic; by professors, for professors. Preventing Regulatory Capture has much grander ambitions: it seeks to reorient scholarship of regulation, but also to lend intellectual heft to a rather undisciplined political idea presently coming back into fashion, namely, that special interests exert a profound and corrosive influence on our policymaking system by capturing their regulators. Under the auspices of the Tobin Project, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, non-profit billing itself as “a catalyst for transformative research in the social sciences,” the editors have collected impressive contributions from seventeen scholars from several disciplines, as well as a short postscript by the former Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (James Leach) and the junior senator from Rhode Island (Sheldon Whitehouse).
The result is a rich volume that a wide audience would benefit from engaging with. But the book’s influence is much likely to be greater among those who never pick it up, and in that regard it is a fascinating case study in how the authority of social science is forged into rhetorical weaponry suitable for political battle. It is worth considering some of the authors’ reasons for seeking to reorient capture theory, as well as what that attempt can tell us about the relationship between careful scholarship and political discourse.
Sentiment inside the Beltway has turned sharply against China. There are many issues where the two parties sound more or less the same. Trump and others in the administration seem heavily invested in a ‘get very tough with China’ stance. It’s possible that some Democrats might argue that a decoupling strategy borders on lunacy. But if Trump believes this will play well with his core constituencies as his reelection campaign moves into high gear, he will probably decide to stick with it, if the costs and the collateral damage seem manageable. But that’s a very big if, especially if the downsides of a protracted trade war for both American consumers and for American firms become increasingly apparent.