NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Three Myths about Federal Regulation

Patrick A. McLaughlin, Casey B. Mulligan

NBER Working Paper No. 27233
Issued in May 2020
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Economics, Law and Economics, Public Economics

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27233

 
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