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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > D, E > Discretion


The application or exercise of  judgment.

(Suzanne Lawrence, SFU Public Policy Class of 2010 )



D. Vogel writes:

"Discretion in regulation, or the application of regulations, could be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than a broad application of rules.   Due to the informal nature of discretion, prosecution may not be used and compliance gained through alternative methods such as social control, self regulation, or others.  Tends to be present less formal regulatory regimes where process and rules are not as formally applied." (Cited in Morgan and Yeung 2007, 189)

Ayres and Braithwaite write:

"Wide discretion ‘presents a real danger of corruption and capture’. But narrow discretion results in rulebook-oriented regulation that thwarts the search for the most efficient solutions to problems like pollution control. When the reward payoff for cooperation is low as a result of such confining discretion, then the evolution of cooperation is unlikely. Might it be possible, however, to allow discretion to be wide, but to replace narrow rule-writing to control capture with control by innovative accountability for the exercise of wide discretion?" (Cited in Morgan and Yeung 2007, 56)



Morgan, Bronwen and Karen Yeung. 2007. An Introduction to Law and Regulation: Texts and Materials. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.


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School of Public Policy and Governance