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For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Private Actors

Rebecca L. Perlman

American Journal of Political Science, 2020, vol. 64, issue 2, 293-308

Abstract: Science is central to the regulation of risk. But who provides the science on which risk regulations are based? Through an in‐depth empirical analysis of domestic health and safety standards, this article shows how private actors use scientific information to acquire preferential outcomes. I develop a formal model delineating conditions under which firms will seek stricter standards on their own products, and I reveal how companies can acquire these outcomes through the strategic provision of information. To test the theory, I track changes to U.S. agrochemical standards over a two‐decade period. I also introduce firm‐level petition data and historical evidence to test the mechanism directly. My findings provide new insight into the strategies companies use to benefit from regulations, while also forcing us to reevaluate what it means for regulations to be based on science.

Date: 2020
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Handle: RePEc:wly:amposc:v:64:y:2020:i:2:p:293-308