Publication Date

2001

Publication Title

University of Pennsylvania Law Review

Abstract

For over two decades, federal agencies have been required to analyze the benefits and costs of significant regulatory actions and to show that the benefits justify the costs. But the regulatory state continues to suffer from significant problems, including poor priority-setting, unintended adverse side-effects, and, on occasion, high costs for low benefits. In many cases, agencies do not offer an adequate account of either costs or benefits, and hence the commitment to cost-benefit balancing is not implemented in practice. A major current task is to ensure a deeper and wider commitment to cost-benefit analysis, properly understood. We explain how this task might be accomplished and offer a proposed executive order that would move regulation in better directions. In the course of the discussion, we explore a number of pertinent issues, including the actual record of the last two decades, the precautionary principle, the value of "prompt letters," the role of distributional factors, and the need to incorporate independent agencies within the system of cost-benefit balancing.

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