Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell

  • Director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism
  • Senior Research Fellow

Matthew Mitchell is a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Mason. In his writing and research, he specializes in public choice economics and the economics of government favoritism toward particular businesses, industries, and occupations.

Mitchell has testified before the US Congress and has advised several state and local government policymakers on both fiscal and regulatory policy. His research has been featured in numerous national media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostUS News and World Report, National Public Radio, and C-SPAN. He blogs about economics and economic policy at Neighborhood Effects and at Concentrated Benefits.

Mitchell received his PhD and MA in economics from George Mason University and his BA in political science and BS in economics from Arizona State University.

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Published Research

Michael Farren, Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell | Jul 19, 2016
Taxi regulations limit competition, thereby yielding higher prices, lower quality, and antiquated technologies and practices. Now is an opportune time to rethink the entire structure of taxi regulations.
Matthew Mitchell, Thomas Stratmann | Dec 2015
When multiple taxing jurisdictions overlap and fail to account for one another’s actions, they over-tax the common base. This is a prediction of the anticommons model, in which numerous parties have authority to exclude others from using a resource. This model further predicts that when governments over-tax the base, private parties will underutilize the resource, and underutilization will be greater as the number of parties with exclusion rights rises. We test these predictions by studying cell phone taxation and local option tax authority, which allows some cities, counties, and special-purpose districts to levy taxes on cell phone use. Consistent with theory, we find that the tax rate on cell phone service is higher when local governments have the option to tax. Further, the percentage of households owning cell phones is lower when there is the local option to tax, and ownership rates fall with the number of taxes levied.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | May 15, 2015
When market circumstances change dramatically — or when new technology or competition alleviates the need for regulation — then public policy should evolve and adapt to accommodate these realities. This paper concludes with some proposals for further research in this area, and a call for a more informed regulatory approach that accounts for the innovations of the sharing economy.
Matthew Mitchell | Feb 01, 2013
In the end, he endorses a “zero tolerance” approach to subsidies and tax loopholes while he is more comfortable with regulatory interventions. This is curious. The regulatory process is opaque and complex, arguably making the code of federal regu- lations an easier place to hide a targeted privilege than the federal budget or the tax code. But Zingales hasn’t enough time to dwell on such considerations; he has too many other interesting and creative ideas to consider.

Working Papers

Matthew Mitchell, Pavel A. Yakovlev | May 13, 2015
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that differences in these rules can have significant effects on policy. The study finds that states with separate taxing and spending committees spend less per capita than other states. Voters concerned about the growth of government may want to take a closer look at this phenomenon.
Matthew Mitchell, Thomas Stratmann | Jan 23, 2012
In this working paper, the authors find that wireless tax rates increase with the number of overlapping tax bases.
Matthew Mitchell, Nick Tuszynski | Oct 03, 2011
This paper summarizes the empirical investigations of sixteen state-level institutions. The lesson for both state and federal policy makers is that there are a number of institutional reforms that seem likely to put spending on a more sustainable path.
Veronique de Rugy, Matthew Mitchell | Sep 12, 2011
Four years into the deepest recession since World War II, the U.S. economy expanded at a rate of only 0.7 percent in the first half of 2011. This means that the economy is growing at a slower pace than the population and that capita output continues to fall. In response, the president has announced a plan for yet more deficit-financed stimulus spending.


Matthew Mitchell, Christopher Koopman | Oct 14, 2014
Currently, 35 states and the District of Columbia prohibit entry or expansion of healthcare facilities through “certificate-of-need” (CON) programs. These laws, which require government permission before a facility can expand, offer a new service, or purchase certain pieces of equipment, were enacted in the belief that restricting entry would lower health care costs and increase availability of these services to the poor.
Matthew Mitchell | May 15, 2014
One way to “internalize the externality” is to require those who benefit from current government services to pay for them. This could be accomplished by a balanced budget requirement.
Matthew Mitchell | Mar 26, 2014
This week’s chart shows the average aggregate contributions that members of Congress received from agribusiness PACs in each of the last three quarters of 2013. The data are separated by members’ votes on the final bill.  …
Matthew Mitchell | Jan 23, 2014
In his latest Mercatus on Policy essay, economist Matthew Mitchell makes the case that current US farm policy is neither equitable nor efficient. Both conservatives who value free markets and liberals who value social justice should be clamoring for reform.
Matthew Mitchell | Jul 23, 2012
One of the things holding productivity back and, along with it, compensation, is rent-seeking. When governments dispense privileges to particular firms, entrepreneurs spend their time asking politicians for those privileges instead of devising new ways to create value for customers. Economists call this activity rent-seeking, and research suggests that it depresses productivity growth.
Matthew Mitchell | Jul 08, 2012
While the bailouts of hundreds of firms in 2008 are, for many, the most prominent example of cronyism in modern American history, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Bailouts are but one example in a long list of privileges that governments give to particular businesses and industries.
Matthew Mitchell | Jun 11, 2012
State and local governments depend on the private sector for their survival. Almost every dollar that these governments spend is either borrowed or taxed from the private economy. Yet, for more than half a century, these governments have continuously outpaced the growth of the private sector on which they depend.
Matthew Mitchell, Nick Tuszynski | Oct 10, 2011
This week’s chart by shows that many institutions are associated with lower per-capita spending.

Policy Briefs

Matthew Mitchell, Anna Mills, Dana Williams | Jan 15, 2015
In this paper we discuss three ways that states can benefit patients by making their health care markets more competitive: they can abolish certificate-of-need laws, liberalize scope-of-practice regulations, and remove barriers to telemedicine.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Emily Hamilton | Sep 30, 2014
A lame duck session of Congress occurs when legislators meet after an election has been held but before the next Congress has taken office. Lame duck sessions are often criticized by the victorious party in the election, and a common critique is that the lame duck members—undisciplined by electoral constraints—vote irresponsibly. There are subtle but statistically significant differences between voting patterns in regular and lame duck sessions, as revealed by analysis of over 50,000 House and Senate roll call votes.
Matthew Mitchell, Christopher Koopman | Jun 04, 2014
Instead, policymakers should focus on more direct, effective, and less problematic solutions to reduce the tangle of regulatory burdens encountered by craft brewers. Eliminating regulatory burdens for all firms would allow brewers to succeed or fail on the basis of their ability to provide the greatest value to consumers at the lowest cost to society.
Matthew Mitchell | Jan 06, 2014
In recent years, food stamps have constituted about 80 percent of farm bill spending, which may be why nearly 100 percent of public debate has focused there. Unfortunately, with all of the attention on food stamps, both political parties have missed the opportunity for reform that lies in the remaining 20 percent of the farm bill.

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Jason J. Fichtner, Veronique de Rugy, Matthew Mitchell, Angela Kuck, Adam Michel | May 25, 2016
The nation’s persistently sluggish economic growth and dire long-term fiscal outlook have increased the urgency of the need to reform the federal revenue system. But what does successful, sustainable tax reform look like? What are its key elements? And what would it achieve?
Matthew Mitchell, Olivia Gonzalez | Apr 19, 2016
Over the past six decades, state and local government spending has increased at more than twice the rate of private sector growth. Left unchecked, this growth puts state and local governments on a costly path that is unsustainable. Either spending growth must slow, taxes must rise, or both. Spending growth can contribute to significant fiscal stress, requiring difficult adjustments when large budget gaps arise. Unfortunately, short-term thinking often dominates the adjustment process so that legislators frequently make choices—such as underfunding pension obligations—that improve the short-term fiscal outlook at the expense of worsening the long-term outlook.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner, Charles Blahous, Matthew Mitchell | Mar 15, 2013
Despite years without a federal budget, trillion-dollar deficits, and ad hoc, crisis-driven fiscal and economic policies that failed to deal with the looming entitlement crisis, leaders on both sides in Washington are now touting seemingly miraculous progress toward a “fix” to our budgetary woes.
Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner, Matthew Mitchell | Sep 12, 2011
This toolkit provides members and their staffs with tools to help them evaluate spending bills and start the process of reducing government spending.

Expert Commentary

Jul 29, 2016

The taxi industry has long been a textbook example of regulatory failure.
Dec 23, 2015

Call it logrolling, call it cronyism—the important point is that omnibus legislation such as the recently passed spending and tax bills is bad for America.
Dec 14, 2015

Instead of looking for ways to constrain and shape the way firms ask for privileges, we should be looking at ways to keep policymakers from dispensing them.
Dec 09, 2015

Since Uber's launch in San Francisco five years ago, government officials have wrestled with how to address this new type of transportation service. Just last month, Pennsylvania's Senate passed a bill to regulate ride-sharing services. Meanwhile, taxi drivers have cried foul over the unequal regulatory environment. They face a mountain of rules, ranging from sensible to comical and even bizarre, while ride-share upstarts Uber and Lyft operate outside most taxi laws. Policymakers across the nation could learn from their peers in Florida, who may have found a way to level the playing field and still make way for innovation.


Matthew Mitchell



Matthew Mitchell | October 15, 2015
Matthew Mitchell discusses political lessons from efforts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank on POTUS (Sirius XM Radio).
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