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.

First 18 months chart

Trump Administration Picks up the Regulatory Pace in its Second Year

August 01, 2018

By Bridget C.E. Dooling
With the first 18 months of the Trump Administration complete, we can check in on his regulatory activity to date. This new analysis shows that Trump's regulatory activity is 70% lower than it was at the same point in the Obama Administration; a striking result for an administration that has made regulatory reform a signature issue.