What Is Government Failure?

13 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2013 Last revised: 6 Jun 2013

Date Written: May 15, 2013


The phrase “government failure” as a term of art originated in the critique of government regulation that emerged in the 1960s. This critique premised that “market failures” were the only legitimate rationale for regulation. Although the phrase is a popular currency in scholarship and politics, people attribute to it different values. As a result, all seem to expect the government to fail, many believe that government inaction cannot constitute a failure, and alleged failures tend to be disputed. This essay seeks to establish a coherent meaning for the term “government failure” and its relatives (e.g., “government breakdown,” “regulatory failure”).

Keywords: government failure, regulatory failure, regulation, market failure

Suggested Citation

Orbach, Barak, What Is Government Failure? (May 15, 2013). 30 Yale Journal on Regulation Online 44 (2013), Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper 13-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2219709

Barak Orbach (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

1201 E. Speedway Blvd.
Tuscon, AZ 85721-0176
United States
520-626-7256 (Phone)

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