The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States

By David Vogel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Broader Implications

THIS CHAPTER EXPLORES SOME of the broader implications of this study, specifically its contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of policy convergence and divergence, the relationship between political institutions and policy styles, and the public perception of risks. I conclude by suggesting the implications of my explanatory framework for the future of consumer and environmental risk regulation in both the United States and the European Union.


THE DYNAMICS OF POLICY CONVERGENCE AND TRADING UP

The extensive literature on policy convergence addresses two issues: the extent of policy convergence and direction of policy convergence. Several studies have identified a number of mechanisms that promote policy convergence.1 First, countries may adopt similar policies because they face similar problems. Second, countries’ policies may converge because they are pressured to do so by a country or a group of countries that are more economically or politically powerful. Third, national policies may converge because countries have agreed to be bound by international treaties. Fourth, countries may mutually adjust their policies to those of other countries as a response to global economic integration. Finally, policy convergence may occur because of the international communication or policy learning that takes place in transnational networks of policy

1 See, for example, Katharina Holzinger and Christoph Knill, “Causes and Conditions of Cross-national Policy Convergence,” Journal of European Public Policy 12, no. 5 (October 2005): 775–96; Christoph Knill, “Introduction: Cross-national Policy Convergence: Concepts, Approaches and Explanatory Factors,” Journal of European Public Policy 12, no. 5 (October 2005): 764–74; Andrea Lenschow, Duncan Leifferink, and Sietske Veenman, “When the Birds Sing. A Framework for Analyzing Domestic Factors behind Policy Convergence,” Journal of European Public Policy 12, no. 5 (October 2005): 797–816; and Stephan Heichel, Jessica Pape, and Thomas Sommerer, “Is There Convergence in Convergence Research? An Overview of Empirical Studies on Policy Convergence,” Journal of European Public Policy 12, no. 5 (October 2005): 817–40. See also David Lazar, “Regulatory Interdependence and International Governance,” Journal of European Public Policy 8, no. 3 (2001): 474–92, which compares three ways in which regulatory policies may be made interdependent, namely competition, coordination, and policy learning.

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