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What makes regulation work?
  1. Bruce J Farquhar1
  1. 1ANEC—European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation
  1. Correspondence to: Bruce J Farquhar, Secretary-General, ANEC, Tervurenlaan 36-4, 1040 Brussels, Belgium.

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Intervention in injury control

Rivara described regulation and legislation as having become part of the Holy Trinity of injury control along with education and product or environmental modification.1 I hope to demonstrate that the kinds of regulation that are effective relate not only to demanding or encouraging behavioural changes but also that they contribute greatly to modification of the product and environment.

Why regulate?

Why regulate at all? Free marketers find regulation abhorrent and argue that the market will find the most efficient level of safety, balancing marginal costs and benefits. However, this hypothesis has to be measured against the expectations of society.


Safety is often claimed to be a right of the individual. John F Kennedy's four consumer rights, which have served as the basis of the United Nations Consumer Protection Guidelines and the consumer policy of the European Union, include the right to safety. This accepted right is often used as justification in itself for regulatory intervention in the marketplace. However, in many ways the market mechanism may be more efficient than many safety advocates wish to admit. Regulatory intervention is not always necessary, although Asch asserts that government safety regulation may be vastly preferable to a purely private system of safety decisions.2 There are in any event instances where we can talk of a market failure that entirely justifies regulatory action. We can identify three principle cases in relation to injury control issues; these are listed below.

(1) Public good and externalities

These present some of the clearest cases of market failure and thus the strongest arguments for collective intervention. Public good relates to consumption by society in general, for example the use of public services and interventions such as safe highway design or enhancements to public buildings. Externalities is a term economists use to describe spillovers, knock-on effects, or side effects. We could describe this …

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