In This Review

The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States
The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States
By David Vogel
Princeton University Press, 2012, 332 pp.

From 1960 to 1990, the United States led the world in rigorous health and safety regulations. European states struggled to catch up, often opposing regulatory protections. Around 1990, these roles were reversed. Today, Europeans enjoy the cleanest air, water, and land; the most natural food; the safest drugs and cosmetics; and the greatest commitment to a sustainable global environment. In Vogel's words, the EU has become a global regulatory hegemon, driving corporate standards even in China and other far-flung jurisdictions. What explains this switch? In this engaging book, Vogel argues that extreme conservatives in the United States have brought regulatory innovation to a standstill, aided by decentralized and gridlocked U.S. political institutions. In Europe, by contrast, a more moderate consensus and centrist parliamentary systems maintain support for regulation, which the EU policy process tends to spread uniformly throughout the continent. This book might not be the final word on this fascinating subject, but it should be required reading for businesspeople, officials, and citizens interested in the role of government in the modern world.