Three Myths About Federal Regulation

31 Pages Posted: 26 May 2020

See all articles by Patrick A. McLaughlin

Patrick A. McLaughlin

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Casey B. Mulligan

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2020

Abstract

Despite evidence to the contrary, three common myths persist about federal regulations. The first myth is that many regulations concern the environment, but in fact only a small minority of regulations are environmental. The second myth is that most regulations contain quantitative estimates of costs or benefits. However, these quantitative estimates appear rarely in published rules, contradicting the impression given by executive orders and Office of Management and Budget guidance, which require cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and clearly articulate sound economic principles for conducting CBA. Environmental rules have relatively higher-quality CBAs, at least by the low standards of other federal rules. The third myth, which is particularly relevant to the historic regulations promulgated during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the misperception that regulatory costs are primarily clerical, rather than opportunity or resource costs. If technocrats have triumphed in the regulatory arena, their victory has not been earned by the merits of their analysis.

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Suggested Citation

McLaughlin, Patrick A. and Mulligan, Casey B., Three Myths About Federal Regulation (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27233, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3609686

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