Entrepreneurial Administration

72 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2017 Last revised: 29 Nov 2017

See all articles by Phil Weiser

Phil Weiser

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: January 3, 2017


A core failing of today’s administrative state and modern administrative law scholarship is the lack of imagination as to how agencies should operate. On the conventional telling, public agencies follow specific grants of regulatory authority, use the traditional tools of notice-and-comment rulemaking and adjudication, and are checked by judicial review. In reality, however, effective administration depends on entrepreneurial leadership that spearheads policy experimentation and trial-and-error problem-solving, including the development of regulatory programs that use non-traditional tools.

Entrepreneurial administration takes place both at public agencies and private entities, each of which can address regulatory challenges and earn regulatory authority as a result. Consider, for example, that Energy Star, a successful program that has encouraged the manufacture and sale of energy efficient appliances, is developed and overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After the EPA established the program, Congress later codified it and, eventually, other countries followed suit. By contrast, the successful and complementary program encouraging the construction of energy efficient buildings, the well-respected LEED standard, is developed and overseen by a private organization. After it was developed, a number of governmental authorities endorsed it and have encouraged LEED-certified construction projects with both carrots and sticks. Significantly, while neither the Energy Star nor the LEED program were originally anticipated by any regulatory statute, both have had a tremendous impact.

The Energy Star and LEED case studies exemplify the sort of innovative regulatory strategies that are taking root in the modern administrative state. Despite the importance of entrepreneurial administration in practice, scholars have failed to examine the role of entrepreneurial leadership in spurring policy innovation and earning regulatory authority for an agency (or private entity). In short, administrative law needs a richer and more textured account of agency action, why entrepreneurial leadership matters in government, and how agencies should operate.

This Article explains that the conventional view of agency behavior — either following the specific direction of Congress or the President to use notice-and-comment rulemaking or adjudication processes — does not adequately portray how public agencies and private entities develop innovative regulatory strategies and earn regulatory authority as a result. In particular, this Article explains how governmental agencies like the EPA or private entities like the Green Building Council (which oversees the LEED standard) depend on entrepreneurial leadership to develop experimental regulatory strategies. It also explains how, in the wake of such experiments, legislative bodies have the opportunity to evaluate regulatory innovations in practice before deciding whether to embrace, revise, reject, or merely tolerate them.

This Article highlights the importance of entrepreneurial leadership in government, providing a number of examples of emerging regulatory experiments and suggesting how Congress should evaluate such experiments. This discussion explains how entrepreneurial leadership and a culture of experimentation and trial-and-error learning is necessary to develop innovative strategies and overcome the pressure to manage the status quo. In so doing, the Article underscores how policy entrepreneurship is integral to agency effectiveness, an important corrective to public choice theory, and a missing piece of modern administrative law scholarship.

Keywords: policy entrepreneurship, administrative law, New Governance, responsive regulation, Silicon Flatiron, Silicon Flatirons

JEL Classification: D73, G38, K23, L31, L33

Suggested Citation

Weiser, Phil, Entrepreneurial Administration (January 3, 2017). Silicon Flatirons Center, 2017, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2893139 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2893139

Phil Weiser (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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