–A form of societal regulation occurs when critical infrastructures, like energy and water, prioritize systemwide reliability and safety as social values in real time. Importantly, these values are further differentiated within infrastructures.
Consider the commonplace that regulatory compliance is “the baseline for risk mitigation in infrastructures.” There is no reason to assume that compliance is the same baseline for, inter alios, the infrastructure’s micro-operators on the ground, including the eyes-and-ears field staff; the infrastructure’s headquarters’ compliance staff responsible for monitoring industry practices for meeting government mandates; the senior officials in the infrastructure who see the need for more enterprise risk management; and, last but never least, the infrastructure’s reliability professionals—its real-time control room operators, should they exist, and immediate support staff— in the middle of all this, especially in their role of surmounting any stickiness by way of official procedures and protocols undermining real-time system reliability.
To put it another way, where highly reliable infrastructures matter to a society, it must be expected that the social values reflected through these infrastructures differ by staff and their duties/responsibilities (e.g., responsibilities of control room operators often go beyond their official duties).
–Why is this important? It’s routine but stops short of the truth to say that “government” has allocative, distributive, regulatory and stabilization functions. In truth, critical infrastructures are their own allocative, distributive, regulatory and stabilizing mechanisms for generating and distributing societal safety and security.
Yes, government relies on infrastructures to meet its own functions and, yes, there is an overlap and dependency between both. Few, however, think to ask, let alone study, how critical infrastructures—many of which are privately owned or managed in the US—independently affect society-wide risks, social values and societal regulation.