Putting Regulators on a Budget

From: National Affairs | 27 National Affairs 42 (Spring 2016)



There are many ongoing debates about regulation in the United States, and there are competing views about how much regulation is beneficial and worthwhile. But there is no dispute that the regulatory system is costly and has an effect on virtually every American. In a democracy like ours, who decides how much regulatory cost is “enough” or “the right amount”? Right now, the answer is that the federal agencies themselves decide, and very little has ever been done about this state of affairs. Since at least the 1940s, there have been efforts to require agencies to follow procedures dictating how they develop rules, but none to put limits on the costs they can impose.


In principle, this idea is not new. Over the years, there have been several different proposals related to regulatory budgeting. Regulatory scholars and practitioners such as Christopher DeMuth, John Morrall, Clyde Wayne Crews, James Tozzi, Fred Thompson, Jason Fichtner, Patrick McLaughlin, and others have written about the concept during the last 35 years. Moreover, the origins of the regulatory-budget concept were bipartisan.

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