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Optimal Regulation with Exemptions

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  • Louis Kaplow

Abstract

Despite decades of research on mechanism design and on many practical aspects of cost-benefit analysis, one of the most basic and ubiquitous features of regulation as actually implemented throughout the world has received little theoretical attention: exemptions for small firms. These firms may generate a disproportionate share of harm due to their being exempt and because exemption induces additional harmful activity to be channeled their way. This article analyzes optimal regulation with exemptions where firms have different productivities that are unobservable to the regulator, regulated and unregulated output each cause harm although at different levels, and the regulatory regime affects entry as well as the output choices of regulated and unregulated firms. In many settings, optimal schemes involve subtle effects and have counterintuitive features: for example, higher regulatory costs need not favor higher exemptions, and the incentives of firms to drop output to become exempt can be too weak as well as too strong. A final section examines the optimal use of output taxation alongside regulation, which illustrates the contrast with the mechanism design approach that analyzes the optimal use of instruments of a type that are not in widespread use.

Suggested Citation

  • Louis Kaplow, 2017. "Optimal Regulation with Exemptions," NBER Working Papers 23887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23887
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23887.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Dietrich Earnhart & Sarah Jacobson & Yusuke Kuwayama & Richard T. Woodward, 2019. "Discretionary Exemptions from Environmental Regulation: Flexibility for Good or for Ill," Department of Economics Working Papers 2019-11, Department of Economics, Williams College.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy
    • K20 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - General
    • K23 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Regulated Industries and Administrative Law
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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