What is a Regulatory Framework?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A regulatory framework is a model people can use for reforming and enacting regulations in an effective and logical way. Policymakers may develop a framework with a specific area of interest, such as improving certification for health care providers, in mind, or could use an existing model to work on a regulatory project. Many governments rely on such frameworks for handling regulatory matters and developing flexible and useful networks of regulations, laws, and rules.

Woman posing
Woman posing

When people develop a regulatory framework, they start by defining the end goal. People can have a conversation about what they want to do and what kinds of accomplishments they can use to measure progress. For example, government regulators might meet to discuss a way to limit consumption of alcohol by minors. Their goal would be to cut down on underage drinking, and they could use measures like self-reported surveys to find out how many minors are able to access alcohol, and how many are drinking.

Having a clear end goal allows people to identify ways to reach it. They can develop a list of potential obstacles and discuss methods for circumventing them, and also start to create a time line for achieving goals in the regulatory process. As they create a regulatory framework for achieving a goal, they can explore various ways to assist with achieving the desired outcome. With each regulation, people must also consider individual issues, like whether the regulation will be legal, who will enforce it, how they will do so, and how regulators will monitor progress in terms of implementation and enforcement.

The regulatory framework can be large and extremely complex. For something like overhauling financial regulations to address clear shortcomings in an existing system, the work of creating a framework can take months and includes input from a variety of sources. In addition to people in the government, it is common to consult people in an industry, as well as agents who will be on the ground enforcing any regulations the government passes. Public comment may also be an important component, allowing people to express wishes and concerns so the government can think about how to meet their needs.

A good regulatory framework is flexible. As new information arrives, people can integrate it without upsetting the plan or pattern, and people can also spot and fix holes as they go along. Input from people at many levels can help maintain flexibility and identify potential problems so people can avoid them rather than taking a reactive stance and trying to fix issues after the fact.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- Well, there is flexible and then there is complete anarchy. In the case of raw milk, some research needed to be done on it before the government could even consider making it available to the public. A regulation should be flexible in that there are ways to change it. It should not be so flexible that people can violate it because they believe they have a good reason to do so.


I couldn't help but chuckle at the suggestion that federal regulations are flexible. Tell that to the natural food store owners a few years ago who were getting jailed and/or fined for selling raw milk (i.e., milk that hadn't been pasteurized). That was all done because that product was not made in conformity with federal regulations and a lot of people got in trouble for selling a product people wanted.

How is that flexible?

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