Regulatory Studies Program

Regulatory Studies Program

The Regulatory Studies Program works to improve the state of knowledge about regulations and their effects on society. The program identifies market-based solutions that achieve regulatory goals, improving the overall performance of the regulatory process, and acts as a resource to scholars and students who share the goal of improving regulatory policy.


Joseph V. Gulfo, Jason Briggeman, Ethan Roberts | Feb 02, 2016
Despite rapidly advancing technology and patients’ increasing desire to try new drugs and devices, the FDA has strayed significantly from the statutorily defined safety and effectiveness standards for drug approvals. The FDA now very often demands proof of clinical utility, including survival and disease outcomes, as a requirement for premarket approval.
Patrick McLaughlin, Laura Stanley | Jan 20, 2016
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University examines the relationship between income inequality and the number of regulatory steps necessary to start a business. Looking at 175 countries and multiple variables, the study finds that there is a positive relationship between entry regulations and income inequality.
Omar Ahmad Al-Ubaydli, Patrick McLaughlin | Dec 16, 2015
We introduce RegData, formerly known as the Industry-specific Regulatory Constraint Database. RegData annually quantifies federal regulations by industry and regulatory agency for all federal regulations from 1997–2012. The quantification of regulations at the industry level for all industries is without precedent. RegData measures regulation for industries at the two, three, and four-digit levels of the North American Industry Classification System. We created this database using text analysis to count binding constraints in the wording of regulations, as codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, and to measure the applicability of regulatory text to different industries.
Jayson L. Lusk | Dec 10, 2015
Betcha can’t eat just one.” The slogan of the bestselling potato chip brand was not just an advertising success—it also revealed a deeper behavioral economic insight. For some people, the current, acting person seems to lack the self-control we imagine the person will desire in the future. The fleeting pleasure of a salty, crunchy chip in the present outweighs the future desire to fit into a pair of skinny jeans. The trouble is not that consumers are overly impatient per se, rather that choices are inconsistent and desires change over time. A decision is made to eat a tasty chip today with the expectation that a diet will start tomorrow. But when tomorrow becomes today, another chip awaits and the diet is put off until another day.
Laura Jones | Nov 11, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University looks at how the government of British Columbia approached regulatory reform and suggests that the Canadian experience could be a model for governments in the United States. Given how many governments have tried and failed to reduce red tape and the regulatory burden, it is remarkable that British Columbia was able to do so. Policymakers in the United States should take notice of these lessons and adopt a similar model.
Richard Williams, Robert Graboyes, Adam Thierer | Oct 21, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows why the current system of medical device approval discourages technological innovation and ultimately affects patient choice. The approval process could be improved by introducing competition for approval—a process that already exists in the European Union.

Testimony & Comments

Jerry Ellig | Jan 12, 2016
Virtually all states require auto manufacturers to sell new vehicles through local franchised dealers, protect dealers from competition in Relevant Market Areas, and terminate franchises with existing dealers only after proving they have a “good cause” to do so. In 1979, fewer than half of all states regulated all three of these aspects of the manufacturer-dealer relationship. By 2014, all but one state regulated every single one of these aspects. These state laws harm consumers by insulating dealers from competition and forestalling experimentation with new business models for auto retailing in the twenty-first century.
Henry Wray | Dec 10, 2015
The outstanding work of the GAO and agency IGs has never been more important than it is today given the massive financial and performance challenges facing the federal government. I commend the subcommittee for its efforts to ensure that this work gets the attention and action it deserves so that it can achieve maximum impact. I would be happy to provide any further assistance that might be useful to these efforts.
Jerry Ellig | Dec 09, 2015
Citizens expect federal regulation to accomplish a lot of important things, such as protecting us from financial fraudsters, preventing workplace injuries, preserving clean air, and deterring terrorist attacks. Regulation also requires sacrifices; there is no free lunch. Depending on the regulation, consumers may pay more, workers may receive less, our retirement savings may grow more slowly due to reduced corporate profits, and we may have less privacy or less personal freedom. Given the important values at stake, Congress and regulatory agencies should craft regulations with full knowledge of their results. Decision-making in the dark should not be an option.
Jerry Ellig | Dec 09, 2015
The first fundamental question for policymakers in this area is defining the policy goal. I believe the appropriate goal of competition policy related to online platforms should be the promotion of consumer welfare—a concept rigorously defined in the economics literature. Consumer welfare is maximized when every unit of every resource is employed in the use that consumers value most highly. Competition policy agencies in the United States typically regard consumer welfare as the sole goal of competition policy. Even if policymakers choose to pursue goals other than consumer welfare, they need to understand the impact of policies on consumer welfare so they can act with full information of the relevant tradeoffs.
Dima Yazji Shamoun | Oct 22, 2015
After reviewing the NRC’s mission, its legislative mandates and constraints, and recent research on low-dose radiation, there appears to be strong evidence to support reconsidering the LNT as the default dose-response model for ionizing radiation.
Richard Williams | Jul 15, 2015
Thirty-five years ago, President Jimmy Carter began an experiment to, in his words, “regulate the regulators” to “eliminate unnecessary federal regulations.” His experiment was to form, through the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within OMB to allow the president to gain control over the regulatory agencies. We have now had 35 years of experience to see if President Carter’s goals have been achieved. They have not.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Jerry Ellig | Jun 20, 2015
In June 2015, the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board issued a report with recommendations to update and modernize economic regulation of rail freight transportation. Jerry Ellig served as a member of the committee that prepared the report. This presentation, given to the National Industrial Transportation League’s Railroad Transportation Committee in November 2015, summarizes the report’s main recommendations.
Jerry Ellig | Mar 20, 2014
Jerry Ellig's presents arguments for improved regulatory impact analysis at the College of Charleston.
James Broughel | Jan 30, 2014
Members of the Science Advisory Board (SAB), thank you for taking the time to hear to my comments this morning. Today’s topic—how to measure the impact of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on low-income and minority citizens in the United States—is both timely and important. At the research center where I work, we have begun to explore the consequences of regulations on vulnerable populations. I appreciate the opportunity to share some of our findings and to contribute to this important discussion.
Richard Williams | Jul 08, 2012
The United States system of ensuring food safety (FS) is more than 100 years old and, until very recently, was the primary system designed to ensure FS. The system assumes that primarily federal regulators have the necessary knowledge to instruct food manufacturers on producing safe food, with both federal and state governments enforcing their respective regulations. While there have been notable successes in the last century — such as mandatory pasteurization for milk and other products, low acid canned food rules, and basic sanitation requirements — much of this progress was achieved in the first half of the 20th century. In the last 30 years, the incidence of foodborne disease has changed very little.
Jerry Ellig | Jan 14, 2010
Jerry Ellig participated in panel discussion before Texas policy makers in Austin, Texas at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Policy Orientation on the future of the Texas Public Utility…
Jerry Ellig | Nov 05, 2009
Jerry Ellig was invited to give a lecture at Pepperdine University about the future of regulations in the federal government.

Mercatus Regulatory Studies


Patrick McLaughlin, Chad Reese, Oliver Sherouse | Feb 04, 2016
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has been generally associated with an explosion in federal financial regulatory restrictions. RegData permits us to specifically examine which agencies produced regulatory restrictions associated with the law. Dodd-Frank was associated with a substantial increase in the Federal Reserve’s role as a regulator, as its number of regulations jumped 32 percent in the 4 years since the passage of the legislation.



| November 16, 2015
Can financial crises and other disasters be prevented? What was the role of the Federal Reserve, regulation, and risk in past crises? In the pursuit of safety, are we creating the conditions for the next? Wall Street Journal chief economics commentator Greg Ip and a panel of experts convened to discuss themes of the new book, Foolproof: Why Safety Can be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe.


Laura Jones | December 01, 2015
The Red Tape Reduction Act, which requires the Canadian government to remove a regulation for everyone that it adds, has been great for businesses. Laura Jones talks about the various benefits of this legislation on WJR’s Frank Beckmann Show.

Recent Events

Jerry Ellig, Ted Gayer, Keith Hall, John Leeth, Patrick McLaughlin, Matthew Mitchell, Hester Peirce, Richard Williams, | November 13, 2012
Please join the Mercatus Center at George Mason University for a series of discussions grounded in academic research and practical experience on how and why the current regulatory process falls short of its purpose—and what can be done to improve regulation in the future.


Jerry Brito, Andrea Castillo | Jan 23, 2014
Como la primera moneda digital descentralizada del mundo, Bitcoin tiene el potencial de revolucionar los sistemas de pago en línea de una manera que beneficia a los consumidores y las empresas. En lugar de utilizar un intermediario, como PayPal, o entregar información de tarjeta de crédito a un tercer partido para su verificación—ya que los dos incluyen cargos de transacción y otras restricciones— Bitcoin permite que los individuos paguen directamente entre sí para bienes o servicios.
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