Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Chapter 9: Building better branches
I began this project when I was struck by the similarities between debates over cost-benefit analysis and environmental impact statements (EISs). In both cases, the advocates of the analysis were frustrated with the failure of the analytical requirement to achieve its goals; lower cost of regulation in the case of cost-benefit analysis, and deterrence of projects with harmful effects on the environment in the case of EISs. And in both cases, the opponents of analysis were just as frustrated that decisions they favored (regulations protecting the environment in one case, and projects with economic gain in the other) were delayed because of the need to carry out the analysis. Making the similarities more striking was the fact that the same interests that favored EISs, opposed cost-benefit analysis, and vice versa. I find it easy to be sympathetic to both ends of the debate on the role of comprehensive forms of analysis in regulation (and in policy-making more broadly). I have often encountered individuals unfamiliar with the regulatory process who wonder why government can’t just analyze the impacts of its decisions before making them. This desire for a process that involves careful examination of consequences is quite intuitive. This is particularly true in cases where the impact of the decisions is likely to be large, and the decisions are (seemingly) made by unelected officials.
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