Tech Policy

Tech Policy

Research

Michael Farren, Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell | Jul 19, 2016
New technology can cause significant changes in an industry, potentially improving both consumer welfare and governance. The initial reaction of many regulators to the advent of “ridesharing” platforms such as Uber and Lyft was either to outlaw them or to burden them with the same level of regulations as taxis. But policymakers are now beginning to take a new approach. They are aiming to achieve regulatory parity between ridesharing platforms and taxis by deregulating taxis. In a new study, “Rethinking Taxi Regulations: The Case for Fundamental Reform,” Mercatus research fellows Michael Farren and Christopher Koopman and senior research fellow Matthew Mitchell determine that taxi regulation is outdated in light of the transformative technology changes and business innovations of the last few years. Now is an opportune time for fundamental reform of the entire regulatory regime to create a fair, open, and competitive transportation market.
Adam Thierer, Adam Marcus | Jun 01, 2016
We stand on the cusp of the next great industrial revolution thanks to technological innovations and developments that could significantly enhance the welfare of people across the world. Inventions previously seen only in science fiction, such as artificial intelligence, connected devices and 3D printing, will enable us to connect and invent in ways we never have before, notes a recent World Economic Forum report on the amazing technological revolutions that could be coming.
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.
Eli Dourado, Samuel Hammond | Mar 14, 2016
Yet many drones weighing more than 250g are little more than toys. Do they really pose a risk to the airspace? To explore this question, we examine 25 years of data from the FAA’s wildlife strike database. Although aircraft collide with birds many thousands of times per year, only a tiny fraction of those collisions result in damage to the aircraft, much less human injuries or deaths. The most serious reported incidents typically involved flocks of large birds. Since the addition of UAS to the airspace is similar in many respects to an increase in the bird population, we conclude that the risk to the airspace caused by small drones (for example, weighing up to 2kg, or 4.41 pounds) flying in solitary formation is minimal.
Eli Dourado, Christopher Koopman | Dec 10, 2015
We report on new data received from the Internal Revenue Service that sheds light on the changes in independent contracting. Our data support the claim that there has been an increase in nontraditional employment, but the data refute the idea that this increase is caused by the sharing-economy firms that have arisen since 2008. Instead, we view the rise of sharing-economy firms as a response to a stagnant traditional labor sector and a product of the growing independent workforce.
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.

Testimony & Comments

Adam Thierer, Andrea Castillo | Jul 22, 2016
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has requested comments pertaining to the governance of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The Technology Policy Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the impact of regulation on society. It conducts careful and independent analyses employing contemporary economic scholarship to assess policy issues from the perspective of the public interest.
Adam Thierer | Jun 01, 2016
My name is Adam Thierer, and I am a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where I study technology policy. Along with other Mercatus Center scholars, I have conducted extensive research on the questions raised in the NTIA’s Internet of Things (IoT) proceeding. Accordingly, I am pleased to submit for the record two recently published Mercatus Center articles. The first article is a compendium of statistics on the economic impact of the IoT and wearables that I coauthored with Andrea Castillo. The second is a law review article I authored for the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology last year.
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.
Adam Thierer | Mar 03, 2016
If America hopes to be a global leader in wearable technologies, as it has been for the Internet more generally over the past two decades, then the country first has to get public policy right. America took a commanding lead in the digital economy because, in the mid-1990s, Congress and the Clinton administration crafted a nonpartisan vision for the Internet that protected “permissionless innovation”—the idea that experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted without prior approval.
Eli Dourado, Samuel Hammond | Jan 15, 2016
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an interim final rule creating a new electronic registration system for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and requiring, for the first time, the registration of model aircraft operators. This comment highlights an omission in the agency’s alternative scenario analysis, questions some of the purported benefits of the rule, and points out some of the continuing legal shortcomings associated with the FAA’s approach. While we support the advent of a simple and streamlined registration system, we object to the extension of the registration requirement to model aircraft operators.
Brent Skorup | Dec 21, 2015
Contrary to Title II proponents’ claims, wireless carriers do not infringe free speech rights when they filter text messaging content they believe their customers do not wish to receive. Title II regulation of text messaging and short code service would not protect free speech. In fact, because mobile carriers exercise editorial discretion over mass messages they transmit, regulation would impermissibly chill wireless carriers’ exercise of speech. Further, since wireless carriers transmit short codes and other messaging based on individual arrangements and exercise control over the content of certain messages, messaging does not resemble telecommunications. For these reasons, regulating short code and similar messaging services under Title II of the Communications Act would likely be unconstitutional and contrary to law.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Adam Thierer, Michael Wilt | Mar 31, 2016
Technological innovation fuels economic growth. For innovation to flourish, though, policymakers must send entrepreneurs a clear green light signaling a general acceptance of risk-taking that challenges existing business models and traditional ways of doing things. This approach to policy can be labeled “permissionless innovation.” If there were one thing every policymaker could do to help advance long-term economic growth, it would be to commit to making permissionless innovation the lodestar for all future policy pronouncements and decisions.
Brent Skorup | Mar 21, 2016
In a new article published in National Affairs, Mercatus research fellow Brent Skorup demonstrates that the discretion that Congress has afforded the FCC has undermined, rather than advanced, the public interest. In this era of growing competition and innovation, the FCC’s authority should be increasingly curtailed, if not eliminated outright.
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.

Speeches & Presentations

Adam Thierer | Jun 06, 2014
Successful innovation, which is essential to better health, safety and security, requires freedom to experiment and develop. But there is an array of government rules and processes that increasingly prohibit “permissionless” innovation.
Adam Thierer | Nov 16, 2012
This presentation was delivered before the Southern Economic Association on November 16, 2012. Examines concerns about vertical integration in the tech economy and specifically addresses regulatory proposals set forth by Tim Wu (arguing for a "separations principle" for the tech economy) & Jonathan ZIttrain (arguing for "API neutrality" for social media and digital platforms.
Adam Thierer | Jan 17, 2012
"The Challenge of Benefit-Cost Analysis As Applied to Online Safety & Digital Privacy." A slide show by Adam Thierer presented on January 17, 2012 before George Mason University Law & Economics Center conference on Privacy, Regulation, & Antitrust.
Adam Thierer | May 19, 2011
Adam Thierer provides an overview of key issues facing internet privacy.
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 | May 28, 2009
Jerry Ellig presents before the Department of Energy, Office of Health, Safety and Security in the Visiting Speakers Program about regulation in high reliability organizations, such as…

Expert Commentary

Jul 26, 2016

Fortunately, as technologists and even policymakers begin to see airspace as another platform for innovation, the appetite for "permissionless innovation" policy-reforms is growing. The FAA could be a champion for the next great American industry as soon as it decides to change.
Jul 25, 2016

If prices are allowed to move freely, then the problem of who goes where as more robots join the economy will be solved faster because prices communicate information. No one knows exactly where the greatest demand for human workers will be next year, but market wages will immediately indicate where the need is. The way for a community to become rich is to use this information from market prices and to help more people who want high-wage jobs to get them.
Jul 20, 2016

In short, “Pokémon Go” represents the very best of capitalism because it’s premised on voluntary exchange — no one is forced to download the game, players can stop playing any time they like, and if they value the special items available in the game store they can buy them to enhance their fun. Furthermore, the entrepreneurs who had the foresight and the guts to dare to make the world a better place are being rewarded for their accomplishment.
Jul 11, 2016

As we convert more and more of medicine to transactions—and we will—patients will find it easier to tend to their health, and doctors will find themselves freer to focus on those areas where relationships are truly irreplaceable.
Jul 01, 2016

As a description of how companies in the platform economy innovate, spontaneous deregulation is a misnomer. Innovation is almost never spontaneous. Instead, innovation typically arises as an entrepreneur's solution to a problem — hence the old saw, "Necessity is the mother of invention."
Jun 28, 2016

In the end, there is more reason for optimism than pessimism when it comes to additive manufacturing. Like the internet before it, 3D printing is another important generative technology. It can unleash the creativity of the next generation of innovators and spawn entirely new, life-enriching products and services in the process.

Charts

This year marks the 40th anniversaries of two of the greatest achievements in manned flight. In 1976, US military pilot Eldon W. Joersz set the still-standing airspeed record of 2,193.2 mph in the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird.” That same year, the Concorde introduced the world to supersonic commercial travel with the first passenger flights to break the sound barrier.

Experts

Andrea Castillo is the Program Manager of the Technology Policy Program 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.

Podcasts

Eli Dourado | February 01, 2016
Eli Dourado discusses the rise off the 1099 workforce and its relation to the gig economy on KPCC radio (CA)

Recent Events

Please join Adam Thierer for a discussion on the ideas that must shape public policy in order to allow innovators to create freely.

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

Adam Thierer | Jun 21, 2016
This excerpt originally appeared in The Fuse on June 21, 2016.
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.
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