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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.