In This Review

Freer Markets, More Rules: Regulatory Reform in Advanced Industrial Countries
Freer Markets, More Rules: Regulatory Reform in Advanced Industrial Countries
By Steven K. Vogel
Cornell University Press, 1996, 300 pp.

The empirical core of this well-argued book is regulatory reform of telecommunications and finance in Britain and Japan during the past two decades, along with brief discussions of France, Germany, and the United States. The author suggests several reasons why, even though the basic arguments for it had been around for years, deregulation began in the 1970s, principally in the United States, and spread internationally: competitive pressures, policy emulation, and in some cases direct U.S. pressure to open markets. The main thesis is that "deregulation" is a misnomer for a complex, widespread phenomenon. True, it involved substantial government disengagement from business activity in Britain and the United States, although in the former that entailed substantial formalization of the remaining regulatory process as a substitute for state ownership or industry self- regulation. In Japan, by contrast, it involved above all preserving the authority of various competing ministerial bureaucracies in the face of technological, domestic, and foreign pressures, primarily through tight control of regulatory reform, making "deregulation" more coherent, protective of existing interests, and slow. France and Germany, with significant differences, were closer to Japan than to Britain. A secondary thesis of the book is that regulatory reform has been driven mainly by governments, not by interest groups as much democratic theory would have it. Interest groups influenced but did not control the process.