Richard Williams

Richard Williams

  • Vice President, Policy Research

Richard Williams is vice president for policy research 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.

Williams has testified before the US Congress and addressed numerous international governments, including those of the United Kingdom, South Korea, Yugoslavia, and Australia. His media appearances have included NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Before joining the Mercatus Center, Williams was the director for social sciences at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He also was an adviser to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis and taught economics at Washington and Lee University. He is a US Army veteran who served in Vietnam.

Williams received his PhD and MA in economics from Virginia Tech and his BS in business administration from Old Dominion University.

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Published Research

Working Papers

Patrick McLaughlin, Richard Williams | Feb 11, 2014
The American regulatory system has no working, systematic process for reviewing regulations for obsolescence or poor performance. Over time, this has facilitated the accumulation a vast stock of regulations. Regulatory accumulation can negatively affect GDP growth, labor productivity, innovation, and safety—perhaps explaining why every president since Jimmy Carter has recognized it as a problem.
Richard Williams, Sherzod Abdukadirov | Feb 07, 2012
This paper proposes a cornerstone of foundational reforms on which to build comprehensive regulatory reform.
Richard Williams | Nov 15, 2010
If the FDA is to survive and stay effective, it must move to reinvent itself as a modern organization, perhaps a new kind of bureaucracy.
Richard Williams | Jan 12, 2010
For most Americans and, in fact, many regulated firms (literally all firms), regulations and how they work are a mystery and they have no idea how to comment effectively. It is important that people concerned with regulations know what to look for and how to comment effectively.


Policy Briefs

Richard Williams, Mark Adams | Feb 08, 2012
This paper shows how regulators can make Americans safer by writing clear, simpler rules and eliminating ineffective regulations.
Richard Williams, Robert Scharff, David Bieler | Feb 24, 2010
In a March 2009 address, President Obama declared, “There are certain things only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat . . . are safe and don’t cause us harm.
Richard Williams, Katelyn Christ | Jul 2009
Sin taxes in modern economic terms amount to excise, or per unit, taxes that are chiefly designed to reduce specific behaviors thought to be harmful to society. Sin taxes have played roles of varying…
Richard Williams, Katelyn Christ | May 2009
In this Mercatus on Policy, Richard Williams and Katelyn Christ of the Mercatus Center discuss the dangers and shortfalls of excise taxes on soft drinks.

Testimony & Comments

Richard Williams | Jul 29, 2013
Congress has asked for the president, through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in OMB, to report on the state of the federal regulatory system for the last 15 years in annual Reports to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local, and Tribal Entities (hereafter referred to as “the Reports”).1 While some of the elements Congress requested are present in some of the Reports, none of the Reports gives a complete picture of the state of the federal regulatory system.
Richard Williams | Jun 11, 2012
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has requested comment on the 2012 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local and Tribal Entities (hereafter referred to as “the OMB report”). This comment has been produced by Richard A. Williams, Ph.D., of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, an education, research, and outreach organization that works with scholars, policy experts, and government officials to bridge academic theory and real-world practice.
Richard Williams | Mar 21, 2012
Richard Williams testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law on how effective regulatory reform has been under the Obama Administration.
Richard Williams | Jun 20, 2011
This comment analyzes the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s proposed rule concerning mandatory inspection of catfish and catfish products.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Media Clippings

Richard Williams | Jul 24, 2011
Outlet: New York Times
Richard Williams | Mar 08, 2011
Outlet: Wall Street Journal
Richard Williams | Feb 15, 2011
Outlet: Quality Assurance
Richard Williams | Dec 02, 2010
Outlet: NPR

Expert Commentary

Mar 25, 2014

Just as President Clinton worked with a Republican Congress, President Obama can work with a Republican Congress, with the nation’s small businesses and would be-entrepreneurs being the primary beneficiaries.
Mar 03, 2014

Senior officials at agencies routinely ask Congress for more funding, so the latest call from the Food and Drug Administration’s Michael Taylor for more money to implement regulations promulgated under the Food Safety Modernization Act isn’t that unusual. But regulators rarely provide evidence that additional funding will actually help solve the social problems the money is intended to address.
Jan 23, 2014

Every year, countless Americans kick off the New Year with a resolution to battle a burdensome bulge. By the end of January, many start to come up short. Now there's encouraging news that you don't have to fight alone — nor does Big Brother need to step in to regulate food manufacturers to combat calories. More than a dozen of the country's top food companies are voluntarily enlisting in the war to help Americans lose weight.
Dec 08, 2013

Parents often try to motivate their children with rewards, from stickers to ice cream to toys. Thousands of books and websites offer suggestions for how to get kids to do homework or clean up their rooms. But is it a mayor’s job to motivate you to drink less soda? Is it government’s job to urge you to sign up for health care by way of schools stealthily sending messages home through your children? Should bureaucrats find ways to change your mind about which washing machine you buy?
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