Deregulation is the process of removing or reducing state regulations, typically in the economic sphere. It is the repeal of governmental regulation of the economy. It became common in advanced industrial economies in the 1970s and 1980s, as a result of new trends in economic thinking about the inefficiencies of government regulation, and the risk that regulatory agencies would be controlled by the regulated industry to its benefit, and thereby hurt consumers and the wider economy. Economic regulations were promoted during the Gilded Age, in which progressive reforms were touted as necessary to limit externalities like corporate abuse, unsafe child labor, monopolization, pollution, and to mitigate boom and bust cycles. Around the late 1970s, such reforms were deemed burdensome on economic growth and many politicians espousing neoliberalism started promoting deregulation.
The stated rationale for deregulation is often that fewer and simpler regulations will lead to raised levels of competitiveness, therefore higher productivity, more efficiency and lower prices overall. Opposition to deregulation may involve apprehension regarding environmental pollution and environmental quality standards (such as the removal of regulations on hazardous materials), financial uncertainty, and constraining monopolies.
Regulatory reform is a parallel development alongside deregulation. Regulatory reform refers to organized and ongoing programs to review regulations with a view to minimizing, simplifying, and making them more cost effective. Such efforts, given impetus by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, are embodied in the United States Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and the United Kingdom's Better Regulation Commission. Cost–benefit analysis is frequently used in such reviews. In addition, there have been regulatory innovations, usually suggested by economists, such as emissions trading.
Deregulation can be distinguished from privatization, which transfers state-owned businesses to the private sector.