Adopting 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.

Adopting 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).

Photo of the US Capitol

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.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Decision Analysis, Muddling-Through, and Machine Learning for Managing Large-Scale Uncertain Risks

March 08, 2019

By: Louis Anthony Cox, Jr.
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” Tony Cox, builds on Charles Lindblom’s research on the limits of rational-comprehensive decisionmaking, to provide insights on how machine learning can help individuals and institutions make better informed decisions — improving society’s experience of ‘muddling through’ policymaking under uncertainty.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Responsible Precautions for Uncertain Environmental Risks

March 08, 2019

By W. Kip Viscusi
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” W. Kip Viscusi elaborates on best practices for decisionmakers facing low probability, high consequence hazards. Viscusi points out that these uncertain risks often create incentives to pursue suboptimal policy approaches that potentially over commit public resources to less consequential hazards.

Hands on computer with Chinese flag

Consultation, Participation, and the Institutionalization of Governance Reform in China

March 04, 2019

By Steven J. Balla & Zhoudan Xie
This article examines the institutionalization of online consultation, a prominent instrument of governance reform in China in which government officials provide interested parties with opportunities to comment on draft laws and regulations over the Internet. The analysis demonstrates that government consultation practices have institutionalized to a greater degree than the citizen feedback that occurs in response to draft laws and regulations. These results point to the conclusion that online consultation is a governance reform that has advanced transparency and (to a lesser degree) public participation, but has not eroded the Chinese Communist Party’s dominance over policymaking.

Photo of Joe Cordes and Daniel Perez

Measuring Costs and Benefits of Privacy Controls: Conceptual Issues and Empirical Estimates

January 30, 2019

By Joseph J. Cordes & Daniel R. Pérez
Co-director Joe Cordes and senior policy analyst Daniel Pérez's article published in The Journal of Law, Economics & Policy draws on the economics of privacy literature to summarize why the costs and benefits of privacy controls should be measured in principle, discusses previous attempts to do so, and generates useful estimates of consumers' valuation of privacy.

The Journal of Law and Politics logo

Improving Regulatory Benefit-Cost Analysis

January 22, 2019

By Susan E. Dudley and Brian F. Mannix
Across developed countries, benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is the principal public policy tool for laying out available information in a way that allows policy makers to make balanced, efficient regulatory decisions in the face of limited resources. However, BCA has limitations. This article examines the institutional and technical factors limiting the use of BCA as a tool for improving regulatory policy and offers some recommendations for reducing those barriers.

Photo of Mark Febrizio and Zhoudan Xie

2018 Year in Review: Top Ten Regulatory Developments

January 14, 2019

By Mark Febrizio and Zhoudan Xie
Just as in 2017, regulatory policy continued to be a focal point of 2018 with key actions ranging from proposed rules to one agency’s establishment of a new economics office to inform regulatory decisions. While not comprehensive, this Regulatory Insight highlights ten important developments related to regulation that occurred in 2018.

White House through the gates

Enduring Principles of Sound Regulatory Analysis

November 27, 2018

By Mark Febrizio
The economic foundations of Executive Order 12,866 underscore its continued importance in regulatory review.
(Article originally published in The Regulatory Review, a publication of the Penn Program on Regulation.)

Bruce Yandle

Bootleggers & Baptists: The Experience of Another Regulatory Economist

November 27, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley
Bruce Yandle conceived the theory of Bootleggers and Baptists after working in government as a young economist in the late 1970s and 1980s. Forty years later, his insights regarding the forces that converge to support government intervention continue to explain many regulatory observations. Applying the theory to her own experience, Dudley finds that while the B&B phenomenon is universal, the nature of winning Baptist arguments can vary depending on administration, and that regulatory institutions can reinforce or counteract B&B pressures.

HHS Deregulatory Actions (FY 2018)

Spotlight: HHS Entries in OIRA’s Latest Regulatory Reform Report

November 26, 2018

By Bridget C.E. Dooling
OIRA recently issued a progress report on EO 13771, the two-for-one initiative, with a present value estimate of $23.4 billion in savings due to actions taken in FY 2018. More than half of these savings came from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). This Regulatory Insight takes a deep dive into the HHS figures and finds significant Medicare paperwork savings, but that the other deregulatory initiatives fall short of providing the kind of regulatory relief that President Trump has promised.

Photo of Chris Carrigan and Mark Febrizio

OMB's Reform Plan and the Tradeoffs of Government Reorganization

October 09, 2018

By Christopher Carrigan & Mark Febrizio
In June, OMB published an organizational reform plan, offering more than 80 recommendations that detail government-wide and agency-specific changes. Although the plan’s goal to make government operations more efficient is a noble one, research and experience demonstrates that designing agency operations involves sometimes unavoidable tradeoffs. Streamlining operations can produce real benefits, but these may come at the expense of impeding an agency’s ability to formulate clear objectives and weakening measures in place to ensure services are delivered correctly. Thus, entering into any restructuring with a complete understanding of its ramifications is critical to realizing its objectives and promoting its durability.

Supreme Court Economic Review

Benefit-Cost Analysis as a Check on Administrative Discretion

August 06, 2018

By Brian F. Mannix
Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) continues to be the principal tool used by American presidents to guide the discretionary decisions of regulatory agencies under their supervision, and increasingly it is viewed by the courts as an important consideration for agencies to take into account in justifying their regulatory decisions. This paper argues that BCA is properly viewed, not simply as a technocratic planning tool, but as a solution to a principal-agent problem. Specifically, it is intended to test whether an agency can demonstrate that it is acting in the public interest. Viewed in this light, some common analytical practices used by regulatory agencies become questionable. A BCA should not, for example, use an assumption that consumers are irrational to support a claim that coercive regulation is making them better off. Consumer sovereignty is axiomatic in BCA, and an agency that uses BCA to justify its actions must accept individuals’ judgments about their own welfare.

Supreme Court Economic Review

Improving Regulatory Science: A Case Study of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards

August 02, 2018

By Susan E. Dudley & Marcus Peacock
This paper explores the motivations and institutional incentives of participants involved in the development of regulation aimed at reducing health risks, with a goal of understanding and identifying solutions to what the Bipartisan Policy Center has characterized as “a tendency to frame regulatory issues as debates solely about science, regardless of the actual subject in dispute, [that] is at the root of the stalemate and acrimony all too present in the regulatory system today.” We focus our analysis with a case study of the procedures for developing National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act, and attempt to identify procedural approaches that bring greater diversity (in data, expertise, experience, and accountability) into the decision process.