Discussion Paper

Pluralism and Regulatory Failure: When Should Takings Trigger Compensation?


The paper evaluates the desirability of compensation for regulatory takings. To do so, we describe a public choice model in which regulators' decisions are influenced by competing political interests. We consider how the political incentives of landowners, environmentalists, and taxpayers are affected by alternative compensation rules and in turn describe the regulatory decisions made in such a pluralistic political environment. Modeling the regulator's incentives in this way leads to the conclusion that compensation should not be paid unless environmentalists and property owners have unequal influence politically. Moreover, the model has several counter-intuitive implications when political influence is not balanced. For instance, if environmentalists are disenfranchised they should support compensation, since it reduces property owner opposition to regulation. In contrast, if environmentalists wield disproportionate influence, penalizing rather than compensating landowners can induce more efficient regulation by stimulating landowner opposition. The analysis emphasizes the deadweight social costs of compensation and the desirability of compensation rules conditioned on both diminished land value and irreversible landowner investments.