The Economic Significance of Executive Order 13422
In January 2007, President Bush issued an Executive Order changing the procedures for undertaking benefit-cost analyses of proposed regulations. These changes have been hailed by some as dramatic improvements while criticized by others as representing the politicization of the evaluation process. This essay analyzes the major provisions of the new Executive Order, and concludes that it is unlikely to have much of an impact on the number or quality of regulations. Only one provision—subjecting major “guidelines” documents to mandatory benefit-cost analysis—could potentially be important, but there is no systematic evidence that agencies have used guidance documents to change the stringency of regulations and bypass mandatory regulatory review. Moreover, the Executive Order leaves untouched the primary weaknesses of benefit-cost analysis as practiced by government agencies, such as absence of standardization of values for key parameters, use of inappropriate alternative regulations for comparison with a proposed regulation, and general lack of either peer review or ex post re-evaluation of regulatory impact.
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