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.


Laura Jones | Nov 11, 2015
Canada recently passed a federal law requiring that one regulation be removed for every new regulation introduced. This change has deep roots in a broader set of reforms from the province of British Columbia, designed to control red tape while preserving justified regulation. British Columbia’s model of regulatory reform is notable for its success and longevity. Canada’s experience with regulatory reform offers some very practical lessons for US governments. The essential ingredients of effective reform include political leadership from the top, public reporting of clear metrics, and constraints on regulators. It is also very helpful to have a credible group outside government pushing for less red tape. In Canada’s case, that group was and continues to be small business.
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.
James Broughel | Oct 01, 2015
In May of 2015, the European Commission released a package outlining the vision for its Better Regulation initiative, a program aimed at improving outcomes of the European Union (EU) regulation. The move represents a step forward for regulatory reform in the EU, and signals a potential shift in world leadership roles among countries promoting evidence based policy. The United States (US), once at the forefront of regulatory science and analysis, may now be lagging behind. If Better Regulation is implemented as its ambitious designers envision, this could signal a new role for the EU in advancing 21st century policymaking.
Sherzod Abdukadirov | Oct 01, 2015
At the turn of the 21st century, biofuels appeared to be a solution to mounting concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, skyrocketing fuel prices, and dependence on foreign energy. When Congress passed the Energy Policy Act (EP Act) in 2005 with a renewable fuel standard (RFS) provision mandating producers to add ethanol to gasoline, it is unlikely that lawmakers thought the act would increase hunger and social unrest in the world’s poorest countries. However, unintended consequences frequently accompany even the most well intentioned policies.
James Bailey, Diana Thomas | Sep 09, 2015
Many scholars have worried that regulation deters entrepreneurship because larger firms can overcome the costs of complying with regulations more easily than smaller firms. Using novel data on the extent of US federal regulations by industry at the four-digit NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) level, the RegData database of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and data on firm births and employment from the Statistics of US Businesses, we run fixed effects regressions to show that more-regulated industries experienced fewer new firm births and slower employment growth in the period 1998 to 2011.
Brian Baugus, Feler Bose | Aug 27, 2015
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that the sunset review process can also be seen as an effective bargaining tool for the legislature to minimize the executive branch’s influence on a wide variety of state boards and agencies. It is a way for the legislature to make its veto power credible and to have influence over an agency’s agenda, which is also influenced by special interests and the executive branch.

Testimony & Comments

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.
Sherzod Abdukadirov, David Wille, Scott King | Jul 02, 2015
This comment addresses the efficiency and efficacy of this proposed rule from an economic point of view. Specifically, it examines how the proposed rule may be improved by more closely examining the societal goals the rule intends to achieve and whether this proposed regulation will successfully achieve those goals. In many instances, regulations can be substantially improved by choosing more effective regulatory options or more carefully assessing the actual societal problem.
Todd Nesbit | May 18, 2015
A new public interest comment by economist Todd Nesbit, written for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, demonstrates that the proposed rule fails to show a need for the rule, fails to properly assess the benefits of the rule, and does not consider alternatives to the rule. The regulatory impact analysis should be improved to account for these failures.
Feler Bose | Apr 06, 2015
In a public interest comment published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Feler Bose determines that the DOE fails to consider alternative approaches to its regulation by requiring the use of electronic ignition instead of implementing a performance standard for standby mode. The comment recommends several ways the DOE can improve its economic analysis and proposal.
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.

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


Richard Williams, Tyler Richards | Nov 04, 2015
The FSMA mandates a HACCP-like approach for all food. There is no evidence that this approach is likely to result in any significant progress in lowering the rate of foodborne illness. In view of the experience of the last 20 years, neither increasing the FDA’s resources nor causing the food industry to spend more (in fact, much more) using this approach appears to be the answer.



J. W. Verret, James K. Glassman | November 04, 2015
Financial Markets Working Group scholars James K. Glassman and J.W. Verret and former SEC Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher participate in a Regulation University panel discussion of an issue vital to corporate governance, proxy advisory services. Proxy advisors (PAs) provide recommendations to institutional investors on how to vote shares of the corporations they own. PAs influence many corporate decisions including composition and operation of corporate boards, executive compensation, auditor selection, and proxy access.


Michael Farren | October 06, 2015
Michael Farren discusses his op-ed on taxi deregulation in Sarasota, Florida on the Ed Dean 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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