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

71 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2005

See all articles by Andrew P. Morriss

Andrew P. Morriss

Texas A&M School of Innovation; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Susan E. Dudley


Date Written: August 2005


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.

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

JEL Classification: I18, K23, K32, K49

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: or

Andrew P. Morriss (Contact Author)

Texas A&M School of Innovation ( email )

1249 TAMU / 645 Lamar St.
College Station, TX 77843
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

Susan E. Dudley


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