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David Versus Godzilla: Bigger Stones

September 12, 2019

By: Jerry Ellig & Richard Williams
For nearly four decades, U.S. presidents have issued executive orders requiring agencies to conduct comprehensive regulatory impact analysis (RIA) for significant regulations to ensure that regulatory decisions solve social problems in a cost-beneficial manner. Yet experience demonstrates that agency RIAs often fail to live up to the standards enunciated in executive orders and OMB guidance. We suggest four managerial changes that could increase OIRA’s leverage.

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OIRA Past & Future

September 12, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley
While some of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affair’s functions are statutorily granted, others—notably those related to regulatory policy—derive from presidential executive orders. This paper reflects on OIRA's evolution over the almost 40 years since the Paperwork Reduction Act created it in 1980 to understand what has made it so durable.

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Clean Power v. Clean Energy

July 31, 2019

By: Brian F. Mannix
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued three final regulatory actions governing greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. These rules will face new legal challenges based on both the economic analysis and the statutory authority for EPA’s actions. Mannix briefly reviews some of the major issues likely to be in contention.

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Nudging the Nudger: Toward a Choice Architecture for Regulators

July 16, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley & Zhoudan Xie
Recognizing that “bounded rationality” also occurs in the regulatory process and building on public choice insights that focus on how institutional incentives affect behavior, this article explores the interaction between the institutions in which regulators operate and their cognitive biases. It attempts to understand the extent to which the “choice architecture” regulators face reinforces or counteracts predictable biases. Just as behavioral insights can help design a choice architecture that frames individual decisions in ways that encourage welfare-enhancing choices, designing the institutions that counter regulators’ cognitive errors could lead to more public-welfare-enhancing policies.

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Privacy Research: The Need for Evidence in the Design of U.S. Privacy Policy

July 03, 2019

By: Daniel R. Pérez
This regulatory policy insight details the importance of using evidence to inform the development of U.S. privacy policy and identifies the kinds of evidence that would be particularly useful for policymakers to consider.

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The Relationship Between Regulatory Form & Productivity: An Empirical Application to Agriculture

June 12, 2019

Under a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture, the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center produced this four-chapter report detailing the findings of its research on the relationship between regulation and agricultural productivity. This report does not represent an official position of the GW Regulatory Studies Center, the George Washington University, or the United States Department of Agriculture.

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Organizational Process, Rulemaking Pace, and the Shadow of Judicial Review

June 04, 2019

By: Christopher Carrigan & Russell W. Mills (Published by the Public Administration Review)
Scholars have long understood that structuring internal work processes into more hierarchical or team‐based arrangements has consequences for organizational outputs. Building on this insight, this research examines the relationship between how agencies organize their rulemaking routines and the resulting rules. Tracking the job functions of rule contacts for economically significant rules proposed over a four‐year period, the analysis demonstrates that expanding the breadth of personnel types closely involved in a rulemaking is associated with a reduction in the time it takes to promulgate the rule. However, increasing the pace at which rules are finalized is not without cost, as those completed faster appear more likely to be overturned when challenged in court. The article not only adds another dimension to empirical scholarship studying rulemaking, which has largely focused on how forces originating outside the agency affect rules, but also suggests the importance of considering competing priorities in designing rulemaking processes.

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Restoring Internet Freedom as an example of How to Regulate

June 03, 2019

By: Jerry Ellig
Thomas Lambert’s How to Regulate contains some simple but critical pieces of advice for regulators: (1) Diagnose the problem before settling on a solution, (2) Compare the merits (benefits and costs) of alternatives, and (3) Recognize that regulators, like the rest of us, respond to the incentives created by the organization in which they are embedded. The FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom order presents an example of how to apply those principles in practice. The 2017 order’s decisions on blocking and throttling, paid prioritization, and the general conduct rule are informed by an extensive diagnosis of the problems the regulations are intended to solve and an assessment of the merits of alternative solutions. The decision to reclassify broadband from Title II to Title I takes into account the public choice incentives that could lead regulators to behave in a less-than-optimal way.

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Expanding OIRA Review to IRS

May 28, 2019

By Bridget C. E. Dooling
Executive Order 12866 describes U.S. policy on regulatory planning and review. It directs agencies to identify the nature and significance of the problem they are trying to solve with regulation, to identify alternative solutions, to assess the quantifiable and non-quantifiable costs and benefits of each alternative, and then to choose the option that maximizes net benefits to society, taking into account distributional effects and other considerations. That policy, which has governed U.S. regulation for several decades, is managed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). It is also subject to several exemptions. In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget signed a historic memorandum of agreement (MOA) narrowing one of those exemptions. The MOA expands the number of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulatory actions for which IRS must comply with EO 12866. This action moved tax rules out of the “presidential tax-policy blind spot” as described by Professor Clint Wallace. This working paper offers a close study of the MOA and reveals six striking features that not only affect tax regulation, but also offer intriguing possibilities for (1) scholarly understanding of OIRA as an institution and (2) the future of regulatory review of independent agencies, which is the largest remaining exemption from OIRA review.

Mark Febrizio

Review: How Do Cross-Country Regulatory Systems Affect Poverty?

April 17, 2019

By Mark Febrizio
A March 2019 Policy Research Working Paper for the World Bank Group examines how “business-friendly” regulations and their enforcement affect poverty at the country level. This review analyzes the paper’s main claims, examines its methodology, and recommends ways to make improvements. In its current form, the paper makes strong claims that are not fully supported by the results or methodology. Modifying the analysis could enhance the findings and expand the paper’s contribution to the literature on country-level determinants of poverty. Rather than offering a clear path forward to addressing poverty, the paper is better seen as a starting point for further research.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Working Paper Series: Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

April 10, 2019

Policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don’t lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as “uncertain futures.”

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Planning for Everything (Besides Death and Taxes)

April 03, 2019

By Susan Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” this paper notes that policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don’t lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as “uncertain futures.”

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

From Football to Oil Rigs: Risk Assessment for Combined Cyber and Physical Attacks

March 20, 2019

By: Fred S. Roberts
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” Fred Roberts applies risk assessment to scenarios of terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure including U.S. sporting venues and the international maritime transportation system. He notes that risk assessments of terrorist attacks traditionally treat physical and cyber attacks separately and are inappropriate for considering the risk of combined attacks that include both a physical and cyber component. He proposes a framework informed by expert judgement to determine whether an attacker would likely prefer executing a combined or traditional physical attack on a given target.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Nuclear War as a Global Catastrophic Risk

March 20, 2019

By: James Scouras
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” James Scouras identifies nuclear war as a global catastrophic risk and suggests that multidisciplinary studies that combine insights from “historical case studies, expert elicitation, probabilistic risk assessment, complex systems theory, and other disciplines” can address many of the shortcomings of single analytic approaches. He suggests that experts can address current gaps in their assessments of the consequences of nuclear weapons by further investigating understudied phenomena (e.g., the effects of electromagnetic pulses, nuclear winter, the prolonged effects of radiation).

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A Brief History of Regulation and Deregulation

March 12, 2019

By: Susan Dudley
The history of regulatory policy in the United States is rich, but its future remains unclear. Susan Dudley provides four key milestones in the development of the current regulatory policy landscape, and posits that we may be in the midst of a fifth milestone being laid, in this article for The Regulatory Review at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.