New Study Brings 'Trickle Down' Illogic to Regulatory 'Costs' Estimates

by James Goodwin | May 09, 2016

These days, it seems a week doesn't go by without some conservative advocacy group releasing a new study that purports to measure the total annual costs of federal regulation. In this case, it's literally true. Last week, the reliably anti-regulatory Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) put out its annual tally, provocatively titled "Ten Thousand Commandments," which this year finds a total cost of $1.885 trillion for 2015. And the week before that, the just-as-reliably anti-regulatory Mercatus Center published a report that concludes that federal regulations cost $4 trillion in 2012. 

To make things more confusing, these studies follow the same basic two-part template. First, they include only the cost side of the ledger, ignoring the huge benefits that federal regulations produce by protecting people and the environment against unacceptable harms. No reasonable policy evaluation would take such a misguided approach, and the decision to ignore benefits is clearly calculated to mislead audiences into believing that regulations are an inherent drain on the economy. It might be useful for political propaganda, but as far as serious policy analysis, the approach is worthless. 

Second, these studies rely on faulty methodologies and flimsy data that are better at generating gaudy numbers – trillions of dollars! – than they are at describing reality with anything approaching reasonable accuracy. CEI, for example, aggregates decades' worth of inflated cost estimates for individual regulations and then, for good measure, throws in estimates of things ...

No Benefits Allowed? Mercatus Study on Federal Regulation and the States

by James Goodwin | April 08, 2016
Over the last few years, deregulatory advocates have pursued a well-trodden path for advancing their anti-safeguard agenda: Publish a large, glossy "study," replete with impressive mathiness, that purports to measure the impacts of regulation but in fact provides a highly skewed portrayal by consciously ignoring the many benefits that regulations provide. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Last week, the libertarian Mercatus Center did the latest trodding when it released a study that ranked all 50 states (and the ...

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