Tech Policy

Tech Policy


Alexander Salter | Sep 23, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University conducts an economically rigorous analysis of the problems posed by space debris and concludes that the problem is significantly more legally, institutionally, and economically complicated than some may believe.
Brent Skorup | Aug 19, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that auctioning overlay licenses is an effective means of repurposing underused federal spectrum for consumer uses. Overlay licenses have been used to reassign nonfederal spectrum but never federal spectrum. The paper presents new evidence from a 2006 spectrum auction (AWS-1) that suggests billions of dollars of underused federal spectrum could be deployed more quickly than other policy alternatives. Crucially, overlay licenses allow agencies to receive payment for spectrum sales, and this reordering of spectrum rights would benefit taxpayers and wireless broadband users.
Anthony D. Glosson | Aug 10, 2015
This paper seeks to synthesize the available legal resources on active defense. It confronts the intertwined definitional, legal, and policy questions implicated in the active defense debate. The paper then proposes a legal framework to authorize active defenses subject to liability for third-party damages, an approach grounded in the technical and economic realities of the network security market.
Robert Krol | Jun 24, 2015
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Robert Krol demonstrates that governments are more likely to set up barriers to new technology when the performance advantage of the new technology is small or incremental and lobbying costs are low. Incumbent businesses threatened by a new technology may use the government to block businesses using the new technology from entering the market. Ultimately, government protection of incumbent businesses reduces consumer well-being.
Eli Dourado, Andrea Castillo | Jun 22, 2015
This paper will review the laws and standards governing federal cybersecurity policy and will highlight how overlapping responsibilities and unclear lines of authority have accompanied increasing rates of federal information security failures. The paper will then describe how these systemic cybersecurity weaknesses demonstrate the federal government to be an especially poor candidate for managing national systems, and it will explain the shortcomings of a top-down, technocratic approach.
Eli Dourado, Andrea Castillo | Jun 22, 2015
After briefly outlining the current cybersecurity information sharing proposals, we will examine the performance of the many similar programs that the federal government has operated for years. The government’s inability to properly implement previous information sharing systems even internally, along with its ongoing failures to secure its own information systems, casts doubt on the viability of proposed government-led information sharing initiatives to improve the nation’s cybersecurity. We will then examine the flawed assumptions that underlie information sharing advocacy before exploring solutions that can comprehensively address the nation’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Testimony & Comments

Eli Dourado, Samuel Hammond | Nov 06, 2015
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing to implement a national registration system for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), the details of which are to be recom- mended by a task force no later than November 20. The stated aim of the registry is to assist in identifying owners and operators of UASs that violate the law and endanger safety, thereby closing a perceived gap in enforcement. This comment highlights several major procedural concerns, followed by an examination of whether the safety benefits of a registry are likely to outweigh the societal and budgetary costs.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | May 26, 2015
The commission should shift enforcement efforts away from stopping private restraint of trade and toward stopping public restraint of trade. In light of George Stigler’s observation that “the state has one basic resource which in pure principle is not shared with even the mightiest of its citizens: the power to coerce,” the commission would be wise to adopt Commissioner Wright’s approach and shift resources toward fighting public restraint of trade.
Eli Dourado, Ryan Hagemann, Adam Thierer | Apr 24, 2015
The FAA must carefully consider the potential effect of UASs on the US economy. If it does not, innovation and technological advancement in the commercial UAS space will find a home elsewhere in the world. Many of the most innovative UAS advances are already happening abroad, not in the United States. If the United States is to be a leader in the development of UAS technologies, the FAA must open the American skies to innovation.
Adam Thierer | Feb 11, 2015
We should remain patient and continue to embrace permissionless innovation to ensure that the Internet of Things thrives and American consumers and companies continue to be global leaders in the digital economy.
Brent Skorup | Jan 22, 2015
The focus of the committee’s white paper on how to “foster” various television distributors, while understandable, was nonetheless misguided. Such an inquiry will likely lead to harmful rules that favor some companies and programmers over others, based on political whims. Congress and the FCC should get out of “fostering” the video distribution markets completely. A light-touch regulatory approach will prevent the damaging effects of lobbying for privilege and will ensure the primacy of consumer choice.
Adam Thierer, Ryan Hagemann | Sep 23, 2014
As part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), Congress ordered the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UASs)—sometimes referred to as drones—into the National Airspace System by September 2015. As part of that effort, the FAA is currently accepting comments on its “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft” (Section 336 of the FMRA) and the FAA’s enforcement authority over model aircraft as affirmed by the statute.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Eli Dourado, Andrea Castillo, Michael Wilt | Nov 09, 2015
Cybersecurity policy should refrain from imposing sweeping, expensive, top-down solutions that could increase rigidities of existing systems. The federal government can better protect American information systems by shoring up its own network vulnerabilities, supporting strong encryption techniques, and reforming laws to encourage security research and report- ing, so that the entities best positioned to do so can strengthen their own cybersecurity.
Adam Thierer, Andrea Castillo | Jun 15, 2015
The next big wave of data-driven technological innovation will connect physical devices embedded with tiny computing devices to the Internet in an effort to seamlessly improve the measurements, communications, flexibility, and customization of our daily needs and activities. This “Internet of Things” (IoT) is already growing at a breakneck pace and is expected to continue to accelerate rapidly.
| 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.
| 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.
Adam Thierer | Jun 19, 2012
Even as viewing options multiply from new sources, America’s traditional video marketplace—broadcast television, cable TV, and satellite TV—remains encumbered with many layers of federal regulation. This prevents a truly free market in video programming from developing and simultaneously threatens to extend old regulations to new online platforms and services.
Jerry Brito | Dec 08, 2010
Government should focus on finishing the first step toward the promise of e-rulemaking—greater online transparency—so that it can then experiment with technologies to harness the wisdom of the crowd.

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

Nov 19, 2015

Since Uber's launch in San Francisco five years ago, government officials have wrestled with how to address this new type of transportation service. Meanwhile, taxi drivers have cried foul over the unequal regulatory environment. They face a mountain of rules, ranging from sensible to comical and even bizarre, while ride-share upstarts Uber and Lyft operate outside most taxi laws. Policymakers across the nation could learn from their peers in Florida, who may have found a way to level the playing field and still make way for innovation.
Nov 10, 2015

At long last, commercial drone technology has developed to the point where businesses and consumers alike can take them to the skies for fun and profit. The benefits of mass drone flight are projected to be enormous, with applications ranging from instant package delivery to manufacturing to lifestyle video-blogging. But a series of poor proposals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) threatens to ground major parts of this hot industry just as it starts to take flight.
Nov 09, 2015

As Congress moves to reconcile each chamber’s version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), civil liberties organizations and technology companies alike continue to pan the bill for threatening consumer privacy and covertly expanding government surveillance programs. Critics argue that strong cybersecurity should not come at the expense of diminished privacy — but this is a false dichotomy. CISA is unlikely to meaningfully improve cybersecurity because the bill addresses the wrong issues.
Oct 27, 2015

Shadow-censorship is a way to control information by secretly limiting or obscuring the ways that people can access it. Rather than outright banning or removing problematic communications, shadow-censors can instead wall off social-media posts or users in inaccessible obscurity without the target’s knowledge. To an individual user, it just looks like no one is interested in his or her content. But behind the scenes, sharing algorithms are being covertly manipulated so that it's extremely difficult for other users to view the blacklisted information.
Oct 26, 2015

Late last month France's Constitutional Council upheld a ban on UberPop, the budget version of Uber's transportation service. The following day, a court in Brussels also ordered UberPop to shut down. Italy and Germany had previously banned UberPop, and Spain completely banned Uber's transport of passengers last year. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom and across the United States, Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies are being integrated – albeit gradually and grudgingly – into the existing transportation services market. What drives this difference?
Oct 25, 2015

Broward County recently joined Gainesville and Sarasota by allowing ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate without fear of reprisal. This is a remarkable turnaround less than three months after Uber left the county in response to overly restrictive regulations. Now Miami-Dade County faces a similar choice.


Is East Texas the next Silicon Valley? If patent activity were a measure of innovation, you might think so. Marshall, TX, a city with a population of 23,523 located near the Louisiana border, is known to every patent attorney in the country for its prodigious volume of patent litigation. This chart shows the number of patent cases filed in federal district court in the Eastern District of Texas versus the average of the 93 other federal judicial districts in the first half of 2015, using data compiled by Lex Machina.


Jonathan Camp is a research assistant for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Eli Dourado is a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program. He specializes in Internet governance, intellectual property, cryptocurrency, Internet security, and the economics of technology.
Michael Farren is a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Michael was a Mercatus Center Frédéric Bastiat Fellow.
Christopher Koopman is a research fellow with the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Matthew Mitchell is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he is the director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Mason. In his writing and research, he specializes in economic freedom and economic growth, public-choice economics, and the economics of government favoritism toward particular businesses.


Eli Dourado | September 19, 2015
Eli Dourado discusses bitcoin regulation and technical challenges on Let’s Talk Bitcoin Network.

Recent Events

“Permissionless” innovation has the power to continue to fuel the next great industrial revolution. Please join us for a lunch discussion centered on this important topic.


Tom W. Bell | Apr 29, 2014
Intellectual Privilege reveals copyright as a statutory privilege that threatens our natural and constitutional rights. From this fresh perspective comes fresh solutions to copyright’s problems.

Media Clippings

Adam Thierer | May 05, 2015
This excerpt originally appeared in the Boston Review.
Adam Thierer, Christopher Koopman | Jan 25, 2015
This excerpt originally appeared in Wall Street Journal.
Eli Dourado | Sep 06, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in The Hill.
Adam Thierer | Jul 03, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Real Clear Policy.
Jerry Brito | Jun 02, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Yahoo News.
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