The Tobin Project established its Government & Markets research initiative in 2007, at a time when the need for better economic regulation was not a focus of public debate. Conventional wisdom held that what markets needed was not better regulation, but simply less of it. The Tobin Project’s research effort began with several working groups focused on topics such as “Risk,” “Macroeconomics,” and “Retirement,” all of which examined how governments can create conditions for healthy, efficient, and safe markets.

Building on this early work, the Tobin Project held its first large conference on Government & Markets in 2008, convening over 50 scholars and policymakers to discuss ways of designing and implementing more effective economic regulation in an age of rapid technological change and changing economic relations. This initial meeting yielded the Tobin Project’s first edited volume, Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation (Cambridge University Press, 2010), and the shorter, more policy-focused, New Perspectives on Regulation (The Tobin Project, 2009). In April 2009, the Tobin Project held a second conference on Government & Markets that used the 2008 financial crisis as a lens for evaluating new approaches to regulation and reform and convened many established members of the Tobin network as well as new participants. This meeting introduced important ideas and questions about the crisis, its causes, and potential solutions. Further exploration and study of these solutions has continued to drive and shape the Government & Markets initiative.

In 2009-10, Tobin scholars engaged in the financial regulatory reform process by sharing their expertise with policymakers in the Senate, House, and Administration. In these conversations, scholars repeatedly heard versions of the same question: how can we protect new agencies and regulation from regulatory capture? The Tobin Project subsequently launched an effort on Preventing Regulatory Capture, which asked how improved regulation could solve social problems without falling prey to industry capture. In 2013, this initiative produced an academic volume that sought to answer this question. Published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Daniel Carpenter (Harvard University) and David Moss, Preventing Regulatory Capture: Special Interest Influence and How to Limit It brings together seventeen scholars from across the social sciences to advance a more rigorous and empirical standard for diagnosing and measuring capture, paving the way for new lines of academic inquiry and more precise and nuanced reform.

Alongside our work on regulatory capture, the Tobin Project supported two working groups focused on related inquiries: Behavioral and Institutional Regulation and Rethinking Regulation. The Behavioral and Institutional Regulation working group, co-chaired by Tobin scholars Annelise Riles (Cornell University) and Tom Baker (University of Pennsylvania Law School), examined how new perspectives from experimental research and close observation could help institutions operate to make markets safer and more effective. The Rethinking Regulation working group, based at Duke University's Kenan Institute for Ethics and chaired by Ed Balleisen (Duke University), brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars with policymakers and practitioners to develop research on new ways of imagining and structuring regulation.