Introduction to the Symposium on Rebuilding Expertise, by William Araiza
*This is the introductory post in a symposium on William Araiza’s Rebuilding Expertise: Creating Effective and Trustworthy Regulation in an Age of Doubt. All posts from this symposium can be found here.
I’m honored that the N&C blog has agreed to host an online symposium on my book, Rebuilding Expertise: Creating Effective and Trustworthy Regulation in an Age of Doubt (NYU Press 2022). I’m equally honored by the roster of terrific scholars who have agreed to post their thoughts on the book and more generally on the ideas it offers.
About those ideas: Rebuilding Expertise seeks to synthesize and present in an accessible way scholarship about how to improve both the reality but also the perception of government regulatory expertise. It responds to the common impression that that expertise has declined in the last half-century, an impression suggested (if concededly not conclusively demonstrated) by survey results revealing distrust of the federal government’s competence and good faith. But even if those results can be explained by factors other than a distrust in the federal regulatory apparatus per se, the rhetoric of bureaucratic incompetence and illegitimacy surely helps explain at least some of the American people’s general reluctance to embrace urgently needed regulatory programs.
How did this state of affairs arise, and what can be done about it? Those are the questions Rebuilding Expertise considers. Part I addresses the first question by surveying, at a necessarily general level, the progression of American politics and regulatory law since the ascendance, in the mid-1970s, of what came to be the Reagan-era attack on regulation and the bureaucrats that performed it. That survey considers those political attacks, including their partial adoption and co-optation by Democratic presidents starting with Bill Clinton, the legal arguments that reinforced them, and changes in the media and social environments that provided friendly terrain for them.
As for the “what can be done?” question, Part II considers possible solutions emanating from Congress, the White House, federal courts, and agencies themselves. Those solutions are as varied as the institutions from which they arise; while no single silver bullet exists, the hope is that, together, they form the mosaic of a solution. Part III concludes the book by examining the use (and abuse) of information relevant to regulatory programs, the state of the civil service, and methods by which regulatory initiatives can be planned, adopted, and administered so as to involve the American people more meaningfully. That latter discussion circles the book back to its original focus on public trust in the bureaucracy. The book’s ultimate goal is to create the conditions for a virtuous circle, in which heightened public trust in our shared regulatory apparatus endows that apparatus with increased democratic legitimacy, in turn generating support for critical regulatory initiatives and the capacity to administer them effectively.
Of course, the diagnoses and prescriptions Rebuilding Expertise offers are highly controversial. They’re also intricate and complicated, and would benefit from more granular observations and critiques than the book can provide. I hope this online symposium provides the opportunity for those observations and critiques, and thus helps move the conversation forward.
For those of you in the New York City area, Brooklyn Law School will be hosting a live discussion of Rebuilding Expertise on the evening of Tuesday, March 21. For more information, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
William Araiza is the Stanley A. August Professor of Law at the Brooklyn Law School.