Preside or Lead? The Attributes and Actions of Effective Regulators
Our public utilities build and operate the infrastructure that supports modern economies. Lives depend on their performance. Defining and demanding that performance is the job of regulators. By setting standards, compensating the efficient and penalizing the inefficient, regulation aligns private behavior with the public interest. Regulators are real people. Case outcomes are determined not only by facts, law and policy, but also by commissioners' personal attributes—their purposefulness, decisiveness, independence, creativity, ethics and courage. These attributes, or their absence, influence regulators' actions. Some regulators merely "balance" and "preside"; others create vision, inspire performance and lead. Even the most purposeful, educated, decisive, and independent regulators—those who make the tough calls and take the right actions—face obstacles: the forces of self-interest, short-term thinking and political inertia that can undermine regulation’s purpose. By exploring the connections among regulators' attributes, actions, and obstacles, these 60 essays reveal the ingredients for effectiveness.