Information as Risk Regulation: Lessons from Experience


Mary Graham, May 2001

Since the mid-1980s a wide variety of federal and state laws in the United States have employed structured disclosure of factual information as a means of reducing risks to public health, safety, or the environment. These disclosure systems aim to create new economic or political incentives for organizations to improve their products or practices. In effect, they harness the government's enduring authority to command the disclosure of previously private information to create a form of risk regulation. In the past, each of these disclosure systems has been viewed as unique. No central plan has informed their architecture or increasing popularity. Evidence from four such systems suggests, however, that they represent a cohesive innovation in public policy. This paper discusses the challenges faced by policymakers in using this promising tool of risk regulation effectively in the future.

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