Economic Regulation

Economic Regulation

Research

Adam C. Smith | Jul 19, 2016
Over the last few decades, psychologists have challenged economists on the notion that people always make rational decisions. Economists, of course, recognize that people are not always perfectly rational. Modeling them as such often adds to the precision of the model’s result, without reducing its relevance. Put another way, economists assume that most of the time people act rationally enough that modeling them as perfectly rational does not get in the way of discovering new insights into human behavior. Nevertheless, behavioral psychologists found this rational choice–based method wanting and have amassed a sizeable body of research demonstrating certain “anomalies” in laboratory studies that break from rational choice predictions. For example, behavioral psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman famously claimed that people are susceptible to certain biases that make them more risk averse to gaining wealth (and more risk seeking in losing it) than the standard rational choice model would predict. Furthermore, they claimed that framing choices in different ways elicits inconsistent behavior. These ideas eventually coalesced into the field known as “behavioral economics” and have since made their way into public policy. An example of this is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which regulates consumer credit products, such as mortgages and credit cards, and consumer credit providers, such as banks, payday lenders, and cell phone providers. This agency was largely influenced by behavioral economics in setting its organizational mission and goals, such as protecting consumers from exploitation and manipulation by credit providers. Despite these behavioral-based foundations (or perhaps because of them, as I will explain below), the CFPB has been criticized from both sides of the political divide for its aggressive bureaucratic expansion and failure to adhere to its original congressional mandate. Furthermore, the actions of the agency have directly led to the significant reduction in volume of certain credit products (e.g., residential mortgages, auto loans) in a manner that calls into question whether the agency is helping or harming consumers. The purpose of this paper is to outline the impact of behavioral economics on public policy by examining its central influence on the CFPB. In particular, it explains how behavioral ideas have been converted into policies that fail to account for actual government practice, which has led to mixed results for consumers. While understanding just how people are susceptible to market influence is important, the premature application of behavioral economics to public policy risks undermining the goal of helping consumers.
Jerry Ellig, Patrick McLaughlin | May 2016
We assess the effects of both regulatory changes on railroad safety with the use of RegData and find that partial economic deregulation is associated with improved safety. Safety regulation was most closely associated with improved railroad safety during the period when economic regulation curtailed railroads’ incentives to operate safely.
Art Fraas, Randall Lutter, Zachary Porter, Alexander Wallace | Mar 28, 2016
Several federal benefit-cost analyses report an energy paradox among firms in competitive markets and conclude that firms would benefit from mandates to increase the use of energy-saving technologies. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, presumes that owners of trailers pulled by tractors belonging to others underinvest in energy-saving technologies because trailer owners incur the costs while tractor owners get the benefits. Such findings appear incompatible with neoclassical views that private firms in competitive markets minimize costs.
Jerry Ellig, James Broughel, Spencer Bell | Mar 09, 2016
For more than three decades, presidents have required executive branch regulatory agencies to identify the systemic problems they wish to solve when issuing major regulatory actions. The first principle in Executive Order 12866, which governs executive branch regulatory review, is that an agency shall “identify the problem that it intends to address (including, where applicable, the failures of private markets or public institutions that warrant new agency action) as well as assess the significance of that problem.” This principle reflects the sensible notion that before proposing regulation, regulators should understand the root cause of the problem the proposed regulation is supposed to solve.
Dima Yazji Shamoun, Bruce Yandle | Feb 2016
A successful president, e.g., one who can be reelected or help to pave the way for the party in the next election, must find ways to steer bureau activities in his preferred direction while delivering on regulatory promises made in the process of being elected. Our review of all empirical work on White House review as well as our own institutional and statistical findings yield strong support to the notion that the review process provides opportunities to make presidential preferences operational.
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.

Testimony & Comments

John D. Graham | May 24, 2016
My name is John D. Graham, Dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget (2001–2006). In my capacity as editor of an article series organized by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and published in volume 37, issue 2 of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, I submit the attached articles as my written testimony for the Executive Overreach Task Force’s hearing on May 24, 2016, entitled “The Federal Government on Autopilot: Delegation of Regulatory Authority to an Unaccountable Bureaucracy.”…
Patrick McLaughlin | Feb 24, 2016
My testimony focuses on how our regulatory process, contrary to what many expect, contributes to poverty. Some people maintain the notion that the costs of regulation are limited to compliance costs, and that these costs are paid primarily by businesses. This belief is incorrect. I will highlight two specific ways that the costs of regulation can actually be regressive, meaning that the costs are disproportionately borne by low-income households:…
Stephen Matteo Miller | Jan 29, 2016
While higher capital requirements can reduce the likelihood of banking crises, I would like to raise two key issues concerning the proposed policy statement: 1) bank subsidiary capital requirements may be more effective than holding company capital requirements, and 2) the benefit-cost analysis used to analyze the rule could be improved by adding other dimensions to the analysis.
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.
Christopher Koopman, Scott Eastman | Dec 01, 2014
Focusing on outcomes, rather than outputs, would give theaters more freedom to adjust the amount of devices they need to purchase based on the number of disabled patrons they actually serve.
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.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Jerry Ellig | Nov 06, 2015
The regulatory authority Congress grants to government agencies is an immensely powerful tool for altering behavior in the marketplace. Intended to solve problems that otherwise would not be addressed, the regulatory process often yields excessively broad and burdensome rules that fail to achieve the desired public objective or provide hoped-for benefits to the public.
Patrick McLaughlin | Sep 30, 2014
RegData 2.0 offers three simple and replicable measures of regulation, each created with custom-made text analysis software run on the annual Code of Federal Regulations. This sector brief presents these statistics for five different federal regulatory agencies that are relevant to the railroad industry: Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Pipelines and Hazardous Material Safety Administration.
Patrick McLaughlin, Robert Greene | May 08, 2014
Federal regulators often have good intentions when proposing new rules, such as increasing worker safety or protecting the environment. However, policymakers typically view each regulation on its own, paying little attention to the rapid buildup of rules—many of them outdated and ineffective—and how that regulatory accumulation hurts economic growth.
| Sep 24, 2013
The Mercatus State Policy Guide is intended to summarize and condense the best research available on the most relevant topics. It’s a starting point for discussion, not a comprehensive overview of economic policy. Each statement is supported by academic research, with links provided in the endnotes. Mercatus scholars are available to further explain the results of their studies. We hope the guide will prove to be a valuable tool in your economic policy research.
Christopher Koopman, Nita Ghei | Aug 27, 2013
In the mid-1970s behavioral economics began to challenge the neoclassical rational actor model by fusing the insights of psychology and economics. Over the course of the next 40 years, a prescriptive framework built around these insights shifted focus toward attempting to mitigate the harm individuals cause themselves as a result of what the agencies view as “irrational” behavior.
| Jul 23, 2013
The Mercatus Policy Guide is intended to summarize and condense the best research available on the most pressing topics. It serves as a starting point for discussion, not a comprehensive overview of economic policy. Anyone who wants to go deeper into these studies should consult the references listed at the back. Mercatus scholars are available to further explain the results of their studies. We hope the guide will prove to be a valuable tool in your evaluation of economic policy.

Speeches & Presentations

Mercatus Regulatory Studies


Charts

Compared to a scenario where regulations are held constant at levels observed in 1980, the study finds that the difference between the economy we are in and a hypothetical economy where regulatory accumulation halted in 1980 is approximately $4 trillion.

Experts

James Broughel is a Research Fellow for the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Susan Dudley directs the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center and is a Research Professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration.
Arnold Kling is a Mercatus Center–affiliated senior scholar at George Mason University and a member of the Financial Markets Working Group. He specializes in housing-finance policy, financial institutions, macroeconomics, and the inside workings of America’s federal financial institutions. He also is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.
Michael L. Marlow is an affiliated senior scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and professor of economics and distinguished scholar at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
J.W. Verret is a senior scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Podcasts

Patrick McLaughlin, | August 12, 2014
In this episode, Patrick McLaughlin joins Mike Leland to discuss his new project, RegData, and how it can help measure the impact of regulations, like occupational licensing and those Uber and Lyft are confronting, in states.

Recent Events

Join Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, for a Regulation University to discuss the best course of action for dealing with network technologies, without derailing innovation.

Books

Jerry Brito, Andrea Castillo | May 03, 2016
As the world’s first decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin has the potential to revolutionize online payment systems and commerce in ways that benefit both consumers and businesses. Individuals can now avoid using an intermediary such as PayPal or submitting credit card information to a third party for verification—both of which often involve transaction fees, restrictions, and security risks—and instead use bitcoins to pay each other directly for goods or services.

Media Clippings

Jerry Brito | Oct 03, 2013
Jerry Brito cited at The Wall Street Journal.
Jerry Brito | Oct 03, 2013
Jerry Brito cited at Los Angeles Times.
Jerry Brito | Aug 27, 2013
Jerry Brito cited at Wired.
Matthew Mitchell | Aug 21, 2013
Matt Mitchell cited at NPR.
Keith Hall | Aug 08, 2013
Keith Hall, a researcher at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, finds that nearly all jobs created in the past few months have been part-time gigs.
' '