Commentary Archive

Howard Beales

BIAS at the FCC

June 06, 2016

6/6/16 - Regulatory requirements should not create artificial distinctions between competing firms, technologies, or business models. Doing so inevitably distorts competition, inhibits innovation, and harms consumers. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules governing privacy practices of broadband Internet access service (“BIAS”) providers would do. This commentary examines the impacts of the proposed rules on consumers and the economy and explains how privacy protection should put consumers first.

Tony Cox

A Causal Analytics Toolkit (CAT) for Assessing Potential Causal Relations in Data

May 10, 2016

5/10/16 - To best inform real-world policy decisions, it is necessary for policy analysts, risk analysts, scientists, and economists to attempt to answer the crucial question: How would changing what we choose to do change the consequences that we care about? In a world of realistically incomplete knowledge and imperfect information, the answer is seldom certain. Risk analyst Tony Cox seeks to answer that question with the new Causal Analytics Toolkit (CAT); a powerful, easy-to-use software that make state-of-the-art causal analytics available to anyone who has Microsoft Excel.

Daniel R. Pérez

Protectionist Rhetoric Continues as U.S. and EU Wrap-Up 13th Round of Trade Talks

May 04, 2016

5/4/16 - The success of populist presidential candidates like Donald Trump is fueled, in part, by a surge in opposition to free trade on both ends of the American political spectrum. Meanwhile, the U.S. and EU continue their negotiation of TTIP aimed at increasing economic growth. A recently published report by the GW Regulatory Studies Center, as part of a two-year grant from the EU to conduct policy research and engage public debate, examines regulatory challenges and opportunities to transatlantic trade.

Susan Dudley

President Obama’s Competition Executive Order Could Benefit from a History Lesson

April 19, 2016

4/19/16 - President Obama’s new executive order, aimed at promoting competitive markets, is a welcome announcement. Competition among firms is often the best regulator of undesirable behavior. However, the order and accompanying issue brief fail to recognize that regulation itself, rather than offering a cure for “natural monopoly,” can contribute to some unnatural monopolies. The deregulation of the 1970s and 1980s and competitive markets have generated real gains for consumers and for society as a whole, while markets have evolved in beneficial, previously unanticipated, ways.

Andrew Reamer

The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act: An Opportunity for Improved Regulatory Assessment?

April 06, 2016

4/6/16 - The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016, a model of bipartisan cooperation, was signed into law on March 30. It establishes a 15-member commission to examine the feasibility of creating a federal data clearinghouse “to facilitate program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses by qualified researchers and institutions.” The commission’s report is July-August 2017. This commentary explains that while the law’s emphasis is on program assessment, its scope can be expanded to include regulatory assessments.

Susan Dudley

OSHA's Shortsighted Solution to Crystalline Silica Exposure

March 30, 2016

3/30/16 - OSHA issued its long awaited regulation restricting workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) on Friday. Unfortunately, the final rule is unlikely to have the beneficial effects the agency predicts because it doesn’t tackle the core problem. The rule mandates various technologies and practices, but the greatest challenge to reducing risks is not that employers or employees are not motivated to take protective measures, but rather a lack of information, particularly information on the relative toxicity of different forms of silica.

Stuart Shapiro

The Intersection of Politics and Analysis

March 29, 2016

3/29/16 - Benefit-cost analysis, like all forms of policy analysis operates in a political environment. The politics surrounding a particular issue can go a long way to determining whether analysis can play a role in shaping policy around that issue. As we construct requirements for analysis, advocates for analytical thinking should keep in mind the interaction between analysis and politics. This may mean advocating for the simpler presentation of complex analysis and taking advantage of the synergy between analysis and outside participation.

Sydney E. Allen

Senators: Put Politics Aside in Reforming America’s Regulatory System

March 22, 2016

By Sydney E. Allen
3/22/16 - Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Senator James Lankford and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, respectively, joined the more than 300 attendees of the 8th annual SBCA conference on March 17 to discuss their bipartisan legislation aimed at updating the current federal regulatory system. Their conversation, moderated by Susan Dudley, addressed the discourse they engage in as leaders of the subcommittee and stressed the importance of making the rulemaking process more evidence based and finding common ground in an ever-divisive political atmosphere.

Brian Mannix

Are Future Lives Worth More Than Our Own?

March 14, 2016

By Brian Mannix
3/14/16 - The EPA has asked its Environmental Economics Advisory Committee for advice on how the Agency should adjust the value of statistical lives (VSL) in the future. Incomes are expected to grow, and people with higher incomes tend to place a higher value on measures to reduce their own mortality risks. Does this mean that a benefit-cost analysis should place greater weight on lives saved in the future than it does on those saved today? In comments filed with the Committee and summarized here, Mannix argues that this is more than just a question of analytical technique.

Sofie E. Miller

Pitching Retrospective Review as a Cure for Regulatory Accumulation

March 08, 2016

By Sofie E. Miller
3/8/16 - In a recent Administrative Law Review article, Reeve Bull argues that retrospective review may be the best way to address regulatory buildup. However, the path to effective ex post review of regulations has many obstacles. One of the biggest hurdles is the simple fact that rules are difficult to review—and especially so because they are not written to facilitate measurement ex post. Institutionalizing a requirement for agencies to evaluate whether a regulation’s predicted effects actually materialize would provide a powerful incentive to improve regulatory outcomes.

Susan Dudley

Regulatory Reboot: Options for Revisiting Midnight Regulations

February 23, 2016

By Susan E. Dudley
2/23/16 - The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is bracing for the rush of regulatory activity that typically comes during the final year of a presidential administration. A government planning document lists 95 economically significant final regulations as priorities for President Obama’s final year in office. But according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, any rule published after May 16 runs the risk of being summarily overturned in 2017.

Daniel Perez

The Role of FDA Regulation in the Fight Against the Zika Virus

February 17, 2016

By Daniel Pérez
2/17/16 - Given the escalating concern over the spread of the Zika virus—transmitted mainly by mosquitoes—it is interesting to note that the FDA has sat on a promising remedy for over 4 years. The agency has still not released for public comment its assessment of an application it received back in November of 2011 from the biotech company for a field trial to employ a genetically modified (GM) mosquito with the potential to dramatically reduce the population of these disease-carrying insects.

Brian Mannix

Space-Time Trading: Special Relativity and Financial Market Microstructure

February 10, 2016

By Brian Mannix
2/10/16 - Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity offers important insights for understanding the physical constraints that shape the microstructure of today’s financial markets. We need to be wary of applying overly simplistic models of how an ideal market should operate, when market data and orders are traveling at speeds approaching the speed of light. Economic concepts like the Efficient Markets Hypothesis – in an efficient market prices will “instantaneously” incorporate all available information – must be tempered by an understanding of the nature of space and time.

Sofie E. Miller

Senate Shows Continuing Interest in Regulatory Reform

February 03, 2016

By Sofie E. Miller
2/3/16 - Regulation is one of the primary vehicles by which federal policy is made, and it affects every household, employee, and business in the U.S. Recognizing this fact, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently released a report featuring practical regulatory reforms submitted by the GW Regulatory Studies Center and others. This commentary includes our recommendations for improving regulatory analysis, retrospective review, congressional oversight, and judicial review. With the benefit of public input from stakeholders, the Committee is well-equipped to address ineffective regulations and inadequate oversight by reforming the rulemaking process.

Susan E. Dudley

Countdown To Midnight On The President's Regulatory Priorities

January 26, 2016

By Susan E. Dudley
1/26/15 - Regulatory activity tends to surge in the final year of a presidential administration. Significant legislation from Congress is unlikely, and regulations are one of the few tools available for outgoing executive branch officials wanting to leave a legacy. The last three months in particular have historically seen a flurry of “midnight regulation” before a new president is sworn in. In an effort to get ahead of that rush, OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski recently sent a memo to executive agencies asking them to adhere to their regulatory agendas. As past experience shows, however, controlling midnight regulations can be an uphill battle.