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Defining What to Regulate: Silica & the Problem of Regulatory Categorization


Andrew P. Morriss


Texas A&M School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Susan E. Dudley


Mercatus Center at George Mason University

August 2005

Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-21

Abstract:     
This article examines the history of human exposure to silica, the second most common element on earth, to explore the problem of categorizing substances for regulatory purposes and the role interest groups play in developing policy. The regulatory history of silica teaches three important lessons: First, the most compelling account of the cycle of action and inaction on the part of regulators is the one based on interest groups. Second, knowledge about hazards is endogenous - it arises in response to outside events, to regulations, and to interest groups. Accepting particular states of knowledge as definitive is thus a mistake, as is failing to consider the incentives for knowledge production created by regulatory measures. Third, the rise of the trial bar as an interest group means that the problems of silica exposure and similar occupational hazards cannot simply be left to the legal system to resolve through individual tort actions. We suggest that by understanding market forces, regulators can harness the energy of interest groups to create better solutions to addressing the problems of silica exposure, as well as other workplace health and safety issues.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 71

Keywords: Silica, Regulation, Interest Groups, Policy, Problem of knowledge, Market Forces, Workers compensation, Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA)

JEL Classification: I18, K23, K32, K49

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Date posted: August 11, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Morriss, Andrew P. and Dudley, Susan E., Defining What to Regulate: Silica & the Problem of Regulatory Categorization (August 2005). Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-21. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=781684 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.781684

Contact Information

Andrew P. Morriss (Contact Author)
Texas A&M School of Law ( email )
1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76133
United States
PERC - Property and Environment Research Center ( email )
2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States
George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )
3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
Susan E. Dudley
Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )
3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
(703) 993-4930 (Phone)
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