New Papers from the Regulatory Studies Center

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The Regulatory Studies Center at the George Washington University has recently published three working papers on regulatory governance in the USA.

The first paper by Susan Dudley examines efforts by the three branches of federal government to oversee regulatory policy and procedures. It begins with a review of efforts over the last century to establish appropriate checks and balances on regulations issued by the executive branch, and then evaluates current regulatory reforms that would hold the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch more accountable for regulations and their outcomes.

The second paper by Steven Balla and Susan Dudley lays out the processes through which U.S. regulations are made, implemented, and evaluated, highlighting the instruments through which stakeholders participate in these processes. The research demonstrates that there are extensive opportunities for stakeholder participation at all stages of the regulatory process. These opportunities, however, are typically oriented toward facilitating the provision of information on the part of stakeholders. Instruments of participation, in other words, do not generally advance stakeholder engagement in deliberative decision making, where deliberation is characterized by reflection on positions held by others and the possibility of changes in one’s own preferences as a result of such reflection

The third paper by Christopher Carrigan and Stuart Shapiro investigates benefit-cost analysis which has been criticized by observers across the ideological spectrum for as long as it has been part of the rulemaking process in the USA. Still, proponents and detractors agree that analysis has morphed into a mechanism often used by agencies to justify regulatory decisions already made. The authors argue that a simpler analysis of more alternatives conducted earlier in the process can resuscitate it as a tool to inform policy. The argument is based on the principles that benefit-cost analyses should: 1) be completed well before the proposed rule; 2) eschew the complex quantification that has made them largely inaccessible; and 3) consider realistic policy alternatives beyond simply the agency preference. Recognizing that requiring a procedure does not ensure regulators will follow it, the authors offer possible remedies, including intensifying or relaxing subsequent review of proposed rules, which raise the cost of circumventing the reform or lower the cost of following it.

(Fabrizio Di Mascio)