Tuesday, January 30, 2007

lawnscience question #3

So the New York Times has an article about a new directive signed by Bush, stating that each federal agency create (unless they already have one) an office to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The idea is that each federal agency must identify “the specific market failure” or problem that justifies the rule. This office is supposed to be run by a political appointee.

Now such executive supervisory approaches aren't new. I mean, under Clinton's Executive Order 12,866, the White House Office of Management and Budget got to review whether rules are “necessary” and encouraged consideration of “distributional impacts” and “equity.” One of the differences here is that it expands the supervisory approach to agency guidances as well as rules.

Guidances, though, were not always as subject to extensive political review, even though some are. But many are fairly technical, involving questions of scientific application--transscience questions (involving some normative component), yes, but still on the scale of things less political.

My interest is in how staff scientists should proceed under this regime, knowing that their determination that a rule is necessary must be based on the identification of "market failure." Does this mean becoming versed in economics, as opposed to the physical and health sciences? Does this mean working with economists (and if so, where would the money come from?) A general question, yes, but the sort of thing an administrative law professor wonders about.

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