Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Adventures In Government Regulation

Thanks to the Regulatory Studies Center here at GW, I have had the chance to participate in a number of interesting events around town over the past couple of weeks.

The reconstituted Administrative Conference of the United States had its formal coming out party, with presentations at GW and the Brookings Institution. ACUS is one of those government bodies that both conservatives and liberals can appreciate, with President Obama and Justice Scalia singing its praises. I guess improving the practice of government regulation is one of those universal values, like apple pie and motherhood. It is, of course, the implementation of this value that separates the right from the left. This will especially be true now that we are about to enter into another period of divided party control of Congress and the White House, a mix that conventional wisdom suggests will lead to a lot of attention being paid to directing the activities of regulatory agencies like the EPA and Department of Health and Human Services.

Then there was an interesting series of discussions held between American and European policymakers, as well as academics like myself from both sides. As much as Europe and the United States can have widely differing views on the role of government in society, there is interest on both sides in reforming regulatory practices in ways that will facilitate economic recovery and other globally salient outcomes. The results of our meetings last week will feed into a document that will be presented at the International Regulatory Reform Conference to be held in Amsterdam next March. Stay tuned for more details on that.

Finally, the American Enterprise Institute hosted two US Senators and one member of the US House of Representatives who presented their plans for reforming the regulatory system. Perhaps the most significant proposal is the REINS Act. Under the REINS Act, before any government regulation that is projected to have an impact of $100 million or more on the economy can go into effect, it must be approved by Congress and signed into law by the president. The main advocates of the REINS Act, Congressman Davis (R-KY) and Senator DeMint (R-SC), are making the rounds, trying to drum up support and ideas for enhancing the act's content and chances of one day becoming law. I'll be teaching a course on regulation next semester and will be interested to find out what takes my students have on the proposal. In the meantime, what say you?

~Steve

PS: I also recently had the chance to attend a lecture by Elinor Ostrom, who last year won the Nobel Prize in economics.

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