Thursday, July 14, 2016

Regulating the Regulatory Process

by Levi Russell

I suppose this is Mercatus Center week, but I can't resist sharing some great analysis and commentary from their researchers.

Senior Research Fellow Patrick McLaughlin recently testified before Congress on the need for an established process of regulatory form at the federal level. Drawing on the experience of the UK and Canada, McLaughlin presents several methods of establishing "regulatory budgeting." He describes this method of regulatory error correction this way:
Regulatory budgets, like other types of budgets, only work if they force the spender to identify and prioritize the most valuable options. The behavior of an agency with a budget differs from that of an agency without a budget. In today’s no-budget world, an agency’s objective is to fulfill its mission with the promulgation of rules. The effectiveness and efficiency of those rules are not evaluated in hindsight, and prospective evaluation of effectiveness and efficiency only occurs for less than one percent of all new rules. In contrast, an agency with a regulatory budget would act differently. First, the agency would avoid new regulations that would not achieve high benefits relative to their budgetary cost. Second, the agency would have incentive to eliminate old regulations that are found to be ineffective or intolerably inefficient. In other words, a regulatory budget process would resemble an error-correction process: it would lead to fewer new errors as well as aid in the identification and correction of existing ones.
 McLaughlin goes on to explain methods of setting the regulatory budget limit and several measures of regulation that could be used in this approach. I highly recommend reading the whole testimony.

Here's the conclusion:
Regulators and legislators alike are not perfect. Regulations are perhaps unique in the sense that they are undeniably important to all actions in the economy, but are not subject to a process for error correction. These errors—most of which are probably undiagnosed owing to the lack of retrospective analysis—are far from benign. They contribute to regulatory accumulation, a force that disproportionately harms low-income households, deters innovation, and slows economic growth, without delivering offsetting benefits. The reduction of the error rate requires a process that ensures the development and application of high-quality information, both before and after the effects of regulations have been observed. Regulatory budgeting represents one option to achieve just that.

Regulatory budgeting would lead to the creation of better information about the effects of regulations. Simultaneously, it would create incentives for regulators to act upon that information, promulgating those regulations that offer the greatest benefit relative to costs and eliminating regulations that impose an undue burden on the American people.

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