Regulatory Analysis: Year in Review

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We feature our top analysis essays from 2012.

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With the regulatory stories of 2012 coming to an end, The Regulatory Review would like to take this opportunity to reflect back on what has been a year of significant regulatory developments in the United States and throughout the world.  Over three days this week, we will present the top 50 The Regulatory Review essays of the past twelve months, based on the number of unique page views.  Today we feature, in alphabetical order by author, the top analysis stories from among our top overall essays.

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by Michael Abramowicz, George Washington University, Ian Ayres, Yale University, and Yair Listokin, Yale University (January 30)
Risk2.jpg If legislators disagree about the efficacy of a proposed policy, why not resolve the disagreement with a bet?  One approach would be to impose one policy approach randomly on some members of the population, but not on others, to determine whether the policy meets its goals. This solution would overcome the measurement problems of conventional regression analysis and would provide a useful way to compare regulations and promote bipartisan agreement. Legislators might agree that once such a test is complete, the winning approach would apply to everyone.
by Matthew D. Adler, Duke University (March 19)
Thumbnail image for Cost-Benefit.jpg Governmental policies often have important distributional consequences. Those who benefit from a policy may be different (in their welfare-relevant characteristics) from those who are made worse off. For example, the beneficiaries of a given policy may tend to have higher or lower income, to be in better or worse health, to have higher or lower life expectancy, or to live in more or less environmentally degraded surroundings, than the “losers.”
by Samson Chen, Staff (January 4)
Weight loss.png Neither the law nor lawyers have traditionally been concerned with preventing obesity. Yet in a recent paper, Roger Magnusson, a law professor at the University of Sydney, argues that law and regulation can help prevent obesity by addressing the economic, social, and technological factors that contribute to weight gain.
by Samson Chen, Staff (June 5)
cake.jpg Should the European Union (EU) institute a “fat tax” on unhealthy foods to prevent obesity? Is it even legal for the EU or its member states do so?  According to Alberto Alemanno, a law professor at HEC Paris, although fat taxes may be legally feasible, European policymakers should address several key policy issues before implementing such taxes.
by Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania (July 30)
rubber bands.jpg “Flexible regulation” might sound like an oxymoron, but it has actually become a widely accepted catch phrase for a pragmatic approach to regulation. The phrase stakes out a middle ground between regulation’s defenders and its critics, promising the achievement of important health, safety, and environmental objectives while also minimizing costs and preserving liberty.
by Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania (October 29)
lawsuit money.jpg As the size and scope of government has expanded over the last century, so too has the web of administrative law that constrains the actions of government agencies. Yet a story in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal has raised a provocative question about the limits of administrative law: Is it possible for a federal agency to escape from the normal rules governing agency action?
by Daniel H. Cole, Indiana University (March 5)
bridging the abyss.jpg Although commonly thought of as rivals, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and the precautionary principle (PP) actually can be reconciled.  Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a well-established, if fallible, methodology for ensuring that regulations enhance,
rather than detract from, overall social welfare.  It acts as a filter, capturing inefficient regulations while allowing efficient regulations to pass through.
by Jerry Ellig and Partick A. McLaughlin, Mercatus Center (May 28)
rating.jpg How well do federal agencies conduct the regulatory analysis required in Executive Order 12866 and use it to make decisions?  Up to now, scholars have tried to answer this question using two evaluation methods: objective checklists, such as those advanced by Robert Hahn or supported by Stuart Shapiro and John Morrall, that note the presence or absence of various factors in Regulatory Impact Analyses, and in-depth case studies that offer detailed assessments of the underlying research. The two methods have forced a tradeoff between breadth and depth.
by David Harrington, Staff (June 4)
environment pollution regulation.jpg According to a new study, an important dichotomy exists between voluntary programs run by state regulatory agencies and similar programs run at the federal level in the United States.
by Alix McKenna, Staff (January 5)
Facebook privacy.jpg When the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced a major settlement of charges that Facebook misled users into believing their information was private, the agency heightened the salience of the government’s role in regulating the privacy settings on networking sites such as Facebook and Google Plus.
by The Regulatory Review (July 3)
Thumbnail image for Supreme Court.jpg Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), finding the controversial individual mandate to be authorized by Congress’s power to tax and spend. Over the last year, The Regulatory Review has featured numerous essays on the legal issues surrounding the ACA. With the Court’s decision last week, the constitutional debate over health care reform comes to a close, although the political contestation will undoubtedly continue.
by Bhaven Sampat, Columbia University (April 23)
Thumbnail image for Drug Pills.jpg Balancing incentives for innovation and access to medicines is the central policy challenge for pharmaceuticals. The United States, like other industrialized countries, achieves this balance via patents. Patents give branded drug makers the right, for a limited time, to exclude generic firms from the market. Competition from generics after this period generally leads to lower drug costs and improved access to medicines.
by Stuart Shapiro, Rutgers University, and John Morrall, Mercatus Center (April 2)
cost benefit data graphs charts.jpg Why do some regulations deliver greater value to society than others? We can start to answer this important question by drawing on data from the benefit-cost analyses that agencies have been required to conduct for their significant regulations for more than 30 years. For the past 15 years, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has provided these data in an annual report to Congress, generating a wealth of information about regulations and their expected impacts.
by Jenna Shweitzer, Staff (February 1)
Romney.jpg Mitt Romney’s victory yesterday in the Florida primary would appear to make it more likely he will be the Republican nominee for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Most members of the public presumably know well by now that Romney would, if elected, offer a different approach to tax policy and other economic issues than President Obama has advanced.
by Jenna Shweitzer, Staff (March 26)
As the race for the presidential election heats up, so does the debate over domestic energy policy. Despite polarizing differences between the parties, President Obama and his major Republican rivals, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, all advocate for an increase in the domestic production of fossil fuels. However, Obama and his Republican opponents differ dramatically on greenhouse gas regulation and renewable energy — a point that Obama has not been highlighting, however, in recent public speeches.
by Gail Slater, antitrust attorney, Federal Trade Commission, member of the New York Bar (May 3)
apple ipad ebook 2.jpg The Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s recent complaint against Apple Inc. and five major domestic book publishers is so compelling that you could easily imagine it becoming a bestselling e-book itself.
by Michael Toffel, Harvard Business School, and Glen Dowell, Cornell University (October 22)
Chemicals.png Chain restaurants in New York City are required to post calories on their menu boards, a movement that is spreading nationwide. In California, restaurants must post health inspection grades at their front door to alert potential customers. Packaged food sold in California might soon have to label whether ingredients are genetically modified, depending on the fate of a November ballot measure. What do these regulations have in common? Each is a form of information disclosure regulation, meant to improve society by harnessing market forces.
by Joshua D. Wright and Angela M. Diveley, George Mason University (April 30)
gavel.jpg A fundamental premise underlying the U.S. administrative and regulatory system is that the subject matter expertise of administrative agencies vests them with the ability to enforce their organic statutes more effectively than any of the three branches of the federal government acting independently. At least in part for this reason, Congress grants agencies the authority to guide policy through statutory interpretation, to engage in rulemaking, and to render adjudicatory decisions. Similarly, perceived expertise guides not only the decision of when it is appropriate for Congress to delegate authority but also whether to delegate to more specialized expert agencies or to courts of general jurisdiction.
by David Zaring, Wharton School (May 22)
stock chart.jpg One question posed by the recent financial crisis was whether our confusing and disaggregated approach to financial regulation in the United States was to blame for the downturn. Did our regulators fail to identify weaknesses in the financial intermediaries they oversaw that they should have seen?
Author affiliations are provided in this list for identification purposes only.  All views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the affiliated organizations.