Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick McLaughlin

  • Senior Research Fellow

Patrick A. McLaughlin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research focuses on regulations and the regulatory process, with additional interests in environmental economics, international trade, industrial organization, and transportation economics.

Prior to joining Mercatus, Dr. McLaughlin served as a Senior Economist at the Federal Railroad Administration in the United States Department of Transportation. 

 Dr. McLaughlin has published in the fields of law and economics, public choice, environmental economics, and international trade. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Clemson University.

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Published Research

Patrick McLaughlin, Jerry Ellig, John Morrall | Jun 01, 2013
This paper compares the quality and use of regulatory analysis accompanying economically significant regulations proposed by US executive branch agencies in 2008, 2009, and 2010. We find that the quality of regulatory analysis is generally low, but varies widely.
Jerry Ellig, Patrick McLaughlin | Dec 01, 2011
Using data from the Mercatus Center’s Regulatory Report Card project and statistics on Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) review time from, we examine whether the quality and use of regulatory analysis vary consistently with OIRA actions.
Jerry Ellig, Patrick McLaughlin | Nov 01, 2011
This article assesses the quality and apparent use of regulatory analysis for economically significant regulations proposed by federal agencies in 2008.
Patrick McLaughlin | Aug 01, 2011
I test the level of information regarding possible groundwater contamination in the residential real estate market in Washington County, Minnesota. An approximately seven square-mile trichloroethylene plume has affected hundreds of households’ water supplies since at least 1988 in the region. I find that homeowners were initially well-informed by market forces, but were later somewhat misinformed by government actions regarding the potential of water contamination from the plume. A disclosure law passed in 2003 may have added new, low-cost, and imperfect information to the market that could explain the change in informational awareness.

Working Papers

Omar Ahmad Al-Ubaydli, Patrick McLaughlin | Nov 12, 2014
RegData is a new database that quantifies federal regulation. It analyzes the text of federal regulations to create novel and objective measures of the accumulation of regulations in the economy overall and across different industries in the United States. In addition, RegData measures the degree to which different groups of regulations, such as those from a particular agency, target specific industries.
Patrick McLaughlin, Jerry Ellig, Dima Yazji Shamoun | Mar 18, 2014
As the quantity and scope of regulations in Florida grow, so does the degree to which they affect the economy. In these circumstances, a little reform to the process of creating regulations can go a long way toward crafting an environment that fosters competitiveness and economic efficiency.
Patrick McLaughlin, Richard Williams | Feb 11, 2014
The American regulatory system has no working, systematic process for reviewing regulations for obsolescence or poor performance. Over time, this has facilitated the accumulation a vast stock of regulations. Regulatory accumulation can negatively affect GDP growth, labor productivity, innovation, and safety—perhaps explaining why every president since Jimmy Carter has recognized it as a problem.
Patrick McLaughlin, Jerry Ellig | Nov 08, 2010
Most federal agencies must conduct economic analysis when proposing major regulations. This paper uses a new dataset scoring the quality of analysis that accompanied proposed regulations in 2008.


Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Patrick McLaughlin | Mar 02, 2015
One reason it has been hard to address regulatory accumulation is the difficulty of identifying nonfunctional rules—rules that are obsolete, unnecessary, duplicative, or otherwise undesirable. An independent group or commission—not regulatory agencies—seems required to successfully identify nonfunctional rules.
Patrick McLaughlin, Gary D. Leff | Sep 22, 2014
The proposed rule requires sellers of travel to offer information and disclosures in a uniform set of ways, despite a lack of evidence suggesting the specific information contemplated by the proposed rule represents the particular set of facts that each consumer needs to understand for every trip.
Patrick McLaughlin | Feb 11, 2014
In examining the reforms under consideration, first, I will discuss why regulatory accumulation is a public policy problem: regulatory accumulation creates substantial drag on economic growth by impeding innovation and entrepreneurship.
Patrick McLaughlin | Aug 01, 2013
Chairman Blumenthal, Ranking Member Hatch, and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am an economist and senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a 501(c)(3) research, educational, and outreach organization in Arlington, Virginia. My primary research focuses on the regulatory process and how it could be improved, so I am delighted to testify on today’s topic.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Media Clippings

Expert Commentary

May 18, 2015

Unfortunately, for a governing body like the NFL to admit a policy's failure seems to require undeniable, unforgettable, alarming visual evidence. It's not just the NFL that apparently has to be shocked into change. Federal, state and local governments have a longstanding tradition of ignoring problematic policies right up until the point that innocent and unwilling participants are irrevocably harmed by the policy.
Mar 12, 2015

With the Supreme Court's ruling in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association ruling, agencies are free to continue repurposing old regulations without any sort of public input or analytical demonstration of the likely effects of the action. This power of reinterpretation converts old regulations into a stockpile of ammunition that can be reused instead of designing a regulation that's customized for the issue at hand. The recycling of old regulations that were designed for a different era and different purpose should serve as a warning signal about our regulatory system.
Feb 20, 2015

If you missed this commercial in the Super Bowl, it's official: Mexican avocados are on national television. But they could have stayed on the bench, but for the Free Trade Agreement with North America (TLC) and some actions by the Inspection Service Animal and Plant United States Department of Agriculture (APHIS, for its acronym in English), who eliminated trade barriers that had been present for decades. It is clear that these actions increased the welfare of American consumers, avocado growers in Mexico, and football fans in the country.
Feb 16, 2015

Avocado consumption per person has risen nearly tenfold over the last four decades. But it could have easily remained a marginal fruit for Americans had it not been for the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 and some moves by the U.S. Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that dismantled decades-old trade barriers. Today, it's clear that these actions increased the well-being of American consumers and Mexican avocado farmers.



Patrick McLaughlin



Patrick McLaughlin | March 20, 2015
Like an appendix, many regulations linger long after they’ve served a useful purpose and cause problems for people down the road. Patrick McLaughlin discusses these unnecessary “vestigial regulations” on Illinois Watchdog Radio and outlines a path forward.
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