Two Different Views on the Preferred Background for an OIRA Administrator

Publisher’s Note: Lawyers and economists: Trained but not educated. The aforementioned inference is drawn from the public comments which follow and  reflect the  wide range of possible positions held by members of Congress who oversee the confirmation of the Administrator of OIRA–the White House Office  of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) which is the cockpit of the regulatory state.  Although it would be difficult–but not impossible–for a person to make contributions to OIRA without some background in both economics and administrative law,  we believe the social entrepreneurial skills of any nominee out rank all other considerations. We make this statement because it is difficult to identify any of the  game changing events that lead to the establishment of OIRA which are dependent primarily on economic or legal skills.  Furthermore we are not convinced that the skills necessary to establish the most important institutional feature of the regulatory state differ from those necessary to operate it on a sustainable basis. Societal problems change with the passage of time and the skills necessary to maintain OIRA’s leadership role change accordingly.


The following quotes are drawn from the Washington Post article on the nomination of Professor Neomi Rao to be the head of OIRA.


4/9/2017 10:25 AM EDT

Rao seems to have impressive legal credentials.  But this job, it seems to me, ought to require someone with considerable training and experience in economic analysis and statistics. It’s not clear how well-qualified she is on that front.  Ultimately, whether a regulation is a good idea or not is not a question of Chevron deference or other legal questions, but of empirical analysis. I hope she understands that.

Jonathan H. Adler

4/9/2017 5:15 PM EDT

There are plenty of people within OIRA with that expertise. The key qualification for an effective OIRA administrator is really the ability to understand the broader legal environment and how to make sure regulatory policy is conducted consistent with the Administration’s priorities. …more


4/11/2017 1:50 PM EDT [Edited]

OK, but doesn’t understanding “the broader legal environment” more or less mean understanding the permitted scope of regulations, and the required procedures around putting them in place, or eliminating them?     That’s important, sure, but understanding their actual effects – beyond sloganeering – and being able to advocate intelligently, for or against, looks pretty vital to me, and something that needs more than just reliance on a staff report.     I mean, if a non-lawyer technocrat were appointed and you argued that legal expertise was needed I could say, “Gee, aren’t there staff attorneys?” Why is one thing and not the other the “key qualification?” ….more


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