Regulation

Regulation

Research

Jayson L. Lusk | Jun 23, 2016
Since its inception more than a century and a half ago, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has experienced enormous growth in both size and complexity—as has the industry it seeks to serve. Today the USDA is among the largest federal employers and its 2014 budget exceeded $160 billion. Its spectrum of activities span from the protection of rural farm interests to urban food assistance. Consequently, the department is the target of a wide range of interest groups besides farmers, including food assistance advocates and advocacy groups interested in issues such as obesity, animal welfare, food safety, the environment, and more. The disparate agendas of these groups make it difficult for Congress to assemble a unified policy package each time USDA’s programs are due for reauthorization. The latest reauthorization, the Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law two years late in February 2015. In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Jayson L. Lusk documents the changes in American agriculture since the USDA’s inception and the expansion of the department’s mission. Much of the USDA’s regulation is outdated, wasteful, and conflicting.
Jerry Ellig, Michael Horney | Jun 21, 2016
When Congress passes legislation that mandates prescriptive regulations, legislators are under no obligation to understand the problem they are trying to solve, assess alternative solutions, or understand the benefits and costs of their choices. Passage of the positive train control mandate in response to several high-profile train accidents amply illustrates how haphazardly the legislative branch can authorize regulations. Congressional hearings and committee reports on the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 contain no analysis of the causes and extent of the safety problem, alternative solutions, and the benefits and costs of alternatives to this $12.5 billion mandate. Given that major regulations are often required by statute, the time has come for Congress to subject regulatory legislation to the same kind of analysis that presidents have required regulatory agencies to conduct for more than three decades.
Brent Skorup, Christopher Koopman | May 19, 2016
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the power to approve or deny any transfer of licenses issued under its jurisdiction. In recent years, the FCC has increasingly been using this power to review mergers and extract regulatory concessions from merging companies as a way to enforce rules that it is otherwise unable or unwilling to promulgate through the normal rulemaking process. The FCC has used its ability to extract these merger conditions to skirt statutory, and in some cases constitutional, limits on its power, posing a threat to good governance, free speech, and the rule of law.
Sherzod Abdukadirov, Scott King, David Wille | May 17, 2016
Over the past few years, the federal government and local governments have increasingly turned to “nudges” as solutions to many problems caused by behavioral biases. Such efforts often run into opposition owing to their paternalistic nature, but nonpaternalistic nudges can be equally effective at improving consumers’ choices. In contrast to paternalistic nudges, nonpaternalistic policies do not impose policymakers’ errors on consumers if policymakers misdiagnose the underlying behavioral bias, and they thus avoid harming consumers by pushing them toward suboptimal choices.
Stuart Shapiro, Laura Stanley | May 04, 2016
Since the early 1980s, federal regulatory agencies have produced regulatory impact analyses (RIAs) for major regulations that include an estimate of the expected benefits and costs of the regulation. While observers have both praised and criticized benefit-cost analysis (BCA) since it first became part of the regulatory process, very few have examined the question of what determines the effectiveness of the economists producing the analysis. When do decision makers listen to the economists, and when are the economists ignored?
Bentley Coffey, Patrick McLaughlin, Pietro Peretto | Apr 26, 2016
The impact of regulation on economic growth has been widely studied, but most research has focused on a narrow set of regulations, industries, or both. In order to better understand the cumulative cost of regulation, a comprehensive look at all regulations across many industries over a long period of time is imperative.

Testimony & Comments

Patrick McLaughlin | Jun 15, 2016
The Regulatory Studies Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the impact of regulation on society. As part of its mission, the program conducts careful and independent analyses that employ contemporary economic scholarship to assess regulations and their effects on the economic opportunities and the social well-being available to all members of American society.
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.”…
Richard Williams, Michael L. Marlow, Edward Archer | Apr 12, 2016
The case examined here is the package of regulations that met the initial legal requirements provided by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA, Public Law 101-535). This act gave the FDA the authority to require nutrition labeling of most foods regulated by the Agency and to require that all nutrient content claims (e.g., “high fiber” or “low fat”) and health claims be consistent with agency regulations.
Richard Williams | Mar 15, 2016
This small agency, established in 1980 by President Carter to “regulate the regulators” and to give “OMB final word on many of the regulations issued by our government,” has largely failed to achieve either goal. The myth persists that OIRA is a “little-known but extraordinarily powerful” agency that has been a “bottleneck” for protective regulations. The data, however, simply do not support this notion.
Eli Dourado | Mar 10, 2016
We are at an exciting point in the history of unmanned aircraft. I think of drones as occupying a similar position now as the Internet did in the late 1980s. As members of this committee know, until 1989, use of the Internet for commercial purposes was generally prohibited. The removal of that prohibition resulted in an explosion of innovation, much of it completely unanticipated, that has persisted until today.
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:…

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Patrick McLaughlin, Nita Ghei, Michael Wilt | May 04, 2016
Federal regulators often have good intentions when they propose new rules. However, at best, policymakers only consider the implications of each regulation on its own before it is implemented. They pay little attention to how the buildup of regulations over time has hindered innovation and damaged economic growth.
Liya Palagashvili | May 04, 2016
The Department of Labor has not done the analysis necessary to identify and understand the implications of overtime regulation within industrial sectors and across the economy as a whole. It instead ignores the ways employers and employees are likely to respond to incentives created by the regulation and how the regulation will likely prevent employers and employees from entering into certain types of employment arrangements that are becoming common in the information economy and are beneficial to both parties. It also does not provide an analysis of how the overtime regulations will impact our most dynamic sector, the tech start-up industry.
Patrick McLaughlin, Oliver Sherouse | Jan 21, 2016
Federal regulation is applicable in the same way in all 50 states. Each state’s economy, however, includes a unique mix of industries, so federal policies that target specific sectors of the economy will affect states in different ways. For 2013, Wyoming scored a 1.59 on the FRASE index. By design, the FRASE index for the United States overall in any year will equal 1, so a score of 1.59 indicates that the impact of federal regulation on Wyoming’s industries was almost 60 percent higher than the impact on the nation overall.
Patrick McLaughlin, Oliver Sherouse | Jan 21, 2016
Federal regulation is applicable in the same way in all 50 states. Each state’s economy, however, includes a unique mix of industries, so federal policies that target specific sectors of the economy will affect states in different ways. For 2013, Nevada scored a 0.82 on the FRASE index. By design, the FRASE index for the United States overall in any year will equal 1, so a score of 0.82 indicates that the impact of federal regulation on Nevada’s industries was almost 20 percent lower than the impact on the nation overall.
Patrick McLaughlin, Oliver Sherouse | Jan 21, 2016
Federal regulation is applicable in the same way in all 50 states. Each state’s economy, however, includes a unique mix of industries, so federal policies that target specific sectors of the economy will affect states in different ways. For 2013, Kentucky scored a 1.30 on the FRASE index. By design, the FRASE index for the United States overall in any year will equal 1, so a score of 1.30 indicates that the impact of federal regulation on Kentucky’s industries was about 30 percent higher than the impact on the nation overall.
Patrick McLaughlin, Oliver Sherouse | Jan 21, 2016
Federal regulation is applicable in the same way in all 50 states. Each state’s economy, however, includes a unique mix of industries, so federal policies that target specific sectors of the economy will affect states in different ways. For 2013, Massachusetts scored a 0.77 on the FRASE index. By design, the FRASE index for the United States overall in any year will equal 1, so a score of 0.77 indicates that the impact of federal regulation on Massachusetts’s industries was more than 20 percent lower than the impact on the nation overall.

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.
Keith Hall | Jun 14, 2013
Regulation can play an important role in a market economy where there are significant market externalities, incomplete markets, information asymmetries, or public goods. Ideally, regulation identifies and focuses on correcting these market failures with minimal economic cost.
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…

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

Richard Williams is director of the Regulatory Studies Program, and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He is an expert in benefit-cost analysis and risk analysis, particularly associated with food safety and nutrition.
Patrick A. McLaughlin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Sherzod Abdukadirov is a research fellow in the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in the federal regulatory process, institutional reforms, food and health, and social complexity.
Jerry Ellig is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a former assistant professor of economics at George Mason University. He specializes in the federal regulatory process, economic regulation, and telecommunications regulation.
James Broughel is a research fellow for the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Podcasts

Richard Williams | June 24, 2016
Richard Williams discusses the historic Brexit vote and regulations.

Recent Events

With millennials now making up the largest generation in the US workforce, studies have shown that they have different preferences on how to work and live.

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

Antony Davies | May 07, 2014
Antony Davies quoted at The Hill.
Eli Dourado | Feb 04, 2014
Eli Dourado cited at The Washington Post.
Matthew Mitchell | Oct 22, 2013
Matt Mitchell discusses "Uber Wars" on Reason TV.
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.
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