Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell

  • Senior Research Fellow

Matthew Mitchell is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he is the lead scholar on the Project for the Study of American Capitalism. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Mason. In his writing and research, he specializes in economic freedom and economic growth, public-choice economics, and the economics of government favoritism toward particular businesses.

Mitchell has testified before the US Congress, and his articles have been featured in numerous national media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, US News and World Report, National Public Radio, and C-SPAN. He blogs about economics and economic policy at Neighborhood Effects and serves on the Joint Advisory Board of Economists for the Commonwealth of Virginia, helping to formulate revenue expectations.

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

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.
Matthew Mitchell | Jan 10, 2013
Since at least the days of Adam Smith, economists have suspected that economic freedom was a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for human prosperity. Smith wrote of freedom as a “system of natural liberty” and declared that “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”…
Matthew Mitchell, Andrea Castillo | Nov 28, 2012
Critics of the Bush tax cuts often dismiss the tax changes as a failed experiment in free-market economics. Noting that economic growth was slower in the years following the cuts than in the years preceding them, some critics see the experience as evidence that tax cuts simply do not work. But the claim that these tax cuts exemplified free-market economic thinking is baseless.
Matthew Mitchell | Jul 08, 2012
The financial bailouts of 2008 were but one example in a long list of privileges that governments occasionally bestow upon particular firms or particular industries. Whatever its guise, government-granted privilege is an extraordinarily destructive force. It misdirects resources, impedes genuine economic progress, breeds corruption, and undermines the legitimacy of both the government and the private sector.

Working Papers

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.
Noel D. Johnson, Matthew Mitchell, Steven Yamarik | Jun 28, 2011
In this paper, the authors investigate whether laws restricting fiscal policies across U.S. states lead politicians to regulate more instead.


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.
Matthew Mitchell | Aug 29, 2011
This chart illustrates the increase in the size of federal, state, and local expenditures as a share of GDP over the course of the past century.
Matthew Mitchell | Aug 22, 2011
This chart illustrates the impact of slower growth by imagining what our economy would look like if, starting in 1975, we had accumulated the sort of debt that we are about to accumulate.

Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Expert Commentary

Apr 15, 2014

Right now, hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in your community stand ready to help you. For a small fee, they’d be willing to lend you their car, their cat or their couch. And you, too, would probably be willing to help them if you could only get connected.
Mar 21, 2014

Policy makers like to play favorites with private companies, privileging a few with tax breaks and others with subsidies, coming to the rescue of some or surrounding others with regulatory rules to box out the competition. For companies lucky enough to receive these favors, life is good (at least for a while). But life isn't so good for others. Behind every privilege to a particular firm, there is a taxpayer, a customer, or a competitor who ends up paying for it. And those who are privileged today can easily find themselves on the other side of the equation tomorrow.
Feb 19, 2014

The Academy Awards are nearly upon us, and that means long-winded acceptance speeches from actors and directors, filled with thanks for all the people who have helped them along the way. Listen closely to those speeches. Because they should really be thanking you.
Feb 04, 2014

Barring some unforeseen outbreak of economic literacy on Capitol Hill, the farm bill is about to become law. As I’ve indicated in my recent essay on farm policy, this is a shame for the American consumer and for the American taxpayer.
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