State regulators

Complexity is forcing state regulators to think creatively of future challenges. Exciting modes of regulation are being borne as we speak.

My job at the LSE, in a nutshell

My job at the LSE, in a nutshell

My position at the LSE is part of a collaboration between the LSE’s Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR) and the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA). I undertake research projects to support the FSA’s goals and, in the process, increase my academic understanding of how regulatory organisations do what they do.

More specifically, I contribute to the FSA’s ability to tackle wicked problems: issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problem is, or how to tackle it.1

My approach to wicked problems is simple. I set a robust logical foundation with the aid of the scholarly literature and then reduce the level of abstraction step by step. It sometimes takes several steps, but there’s a method to the chaos: the beauty of this approach is that each step is solid progress into realisable-yet-robust policy solutions.

Summaries of some of my projects coming soon in separate posts…

Posted by J in Public Policy, State regulators
Leaders matter!

Leaders matter!

This post is based on Slo’s ‘Legal independence vs. leaders’ reputation: Exploring drivers of ethics commissions’ conduct in new democracies’.

Regulatory agencies are supposed to have a degree of independence. So, for example, while a Minister answers to the President or Prime Minister, the Director of a regulatory agency does not. Supposedly, this gives the Agency the ability to counter decisions by the government when the scientific evidence requires it (among other things).

Slo’s article touches on the matter of independence, from an exciting angle.

Authors agree that an agency’s de-facto independence (i.e. what the agency ends up having) can be lower/higher than its de-jure independence (i.e. what the agency is supposed to have by law). Slo checks if a leader’s style can increase or decrease de-facto independence.

Slo finds that leadership style can, indeed, make a difference.

Differences between de-jure and de-facto independence for a sample of agencies seem to trace to the style of its leaders, and changes in the degree of de-facto independence can be triggered by leadership changes.

The key mechanism is reputation management.

Leaders that excel in managing reputation vis-a-vis key audiences can act more freely than leaders who struggle in such task.


As is the case of all academic articles, there’s a lot to learn from the specifics of the article. So, do refer to the article if the above sounds interesting.

Header photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

Posted by J in Public Policy, State regulators
Christmas, Brexit, regulation, and how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ uncertainty is fundamentally the same

Christmas, Brexit, regulation, and how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ uncertainty is fundamentally the same

Christmas gifts greatly determine what kids play after Christmas. If they get a soccer ball, they’ll play football. If the gift is a remote control car, they’ll drive that thing until batteries run out.

In my case, my parents never told me what I would get. It was a surprise.

Surprises are uncertainty. They can be bad, but, also, they can be good.

Christmas surprises were always good for me. I knew I was going to get something, and that was exciting. However, without the information of what I would get, I could not have predicted what I would be playing afterwards.

I had to adapt my behaviour once gifts were unveiled.


UK is facing a challenge that has created great uncertainty, ‘Brexit’.

UK regulators know that when Brexit arrives, the task will be great, but it is impossible for them to say precisely what they will do after Brexit.

And so… They will have to adapt.


Uncertainty can be good or bad. It can cause emotion or anxiety. It may be present in trivial situations or in very important matters. However, deep down below all uncertainty seems fundamentally the same.

It’s about not knowing what the future will bring and having to adapt once the future reveals itself.

Posted by J in Public Policy, State regulators, Theory(ish)