Grading Estimates of the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulation
I review two recent estimates of the costs and, in one case, benefits of federal regulation. The first is found in the Office of Management and Budget’s 2005 report to Congress on the benefits and costs of federal regulations (OMB 2005b). OMB estimates annual benefits in 2004 to be $70 to $277 billion and costs to be $34 to $39 billion, but these estimates omit a great deal; the cost estimate, in particular, is generally acknowledged to be an underestimate. The other estimate, written by Mark Crain (Crain 2005) and sponsored by the Small Business Administration, uses a different approach and generates an estimate of $1 trillion. Crain also finds that the burden on small firms is much greater than the burden on large firms. In the final section of the paper, I also review a recent comparison, presented in the 2005 report to Congress, of ex ante and ex post estimates of the benefits and costs of individual regulations. I find the Crain report to be deeply problematic and the OMB’s ex ante/ex post comparison slightly less so.
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- Christainsen, Gregory B & Haveman, Robert H, 1981. "Public Regulations and the Slowdown in Productivity Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 320-25, May.
- Winston Harrington & Richard D. Morgenstern & Peter Nelson, 2000. "On the accuracy of regulatory cost estimates," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(2), pages 297-322.
- Posner, Richard A, 1975. "The Social Costs of Monopoly and Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 807-27, August.
- Morgenstern, Richard & Harrington, Winston & Nelson, Per-Kristian, 1999. "On the Accuracy of Regulatory Cost Estimates," Discussion Papers dp-99-18, Resources For the Future.
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