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Watching the watchmaker: on regulating the social in lieu of the technical

Downer, John (2009) Watching the watchmaker: on regulating the social in lieu of the technical. CARR Discussion Papers, DP 54. Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK. ISBN 9780853283966

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This paper looks at the problem of expertise in regulation by examining the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 'type-certification' process, through which they evaluate new designs of civil aircraft. It notes that the FAA delegate a large amount of this work to the manufacturers themselves, and discusses why they do this by invoking arguments from the sociology of science and technology. It suggests that - contrary to popular portrayal - regulators of 'high' technologies face an inevitable epistemic barrier when making technological assessments, which forces them to delegate technical questions to people with more tacit knowledge, and hence to 'regulate' at a distance by evaluating 'trust' rather than 'technology'. It then unravels some of the implications of this and its relation to our theories of regulation and 'regulatory capture'.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 The Author
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
JEL classification: H - Public Economics > H0 - General
Sets: Research centres and groups > Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR)
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2011 09:54
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2011 08:37

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