Brian Mannix

Brian Mannix is a research professor in the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University. From 2005 to 2009 he served as the Environmental Protection Agency's Associate Administrator for Policy, Economics, and Innovation; earlier he served as Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Mannix was managing editor of Regulation magazine at the American Enterprise Institute.

Can Behavioral Economics Justify the Unbound Regulator?

Puppet on a string

“You must be the best judge of your own happiness.”

Jane Austen said that, in Emma, but the statement is also a keystone principle of modern microeconomic theory, and it provides the epistemic foundation that makes benefit-cost analysis possible.  The only way to know people’s preferences is observe the choices that they themselves freely make; all inferences about the “public” interest must begin there.

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Midnight Mulligan – The Congressional Review Act Rides Again!

pointers of antique marine chronometer reaching twelve

Might the administrative state have expired quietly, six months ago?  Arguably it did, if what we mean by the administrative state is the array of regulatory agencies, not only executing the law, but also creating binding new law without legislative consent.  Bear with me.

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The Public Interest and the Regulatory State

How can we ensure that government officials use their powers in the public interest?

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Does Benefit-Cost Analysis Attempt the Impossible?

ROI analysis

Before tackling some of the practical problems involved in the use of Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA), I want to take a look at two foundational questions.  How do we incorporate the interests of affected individuals into a BCA model?  And how do we assemble those individual interests into a social welfare function that allows us to make a collective decision?

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Using Benefit-Cost Analysis to Harness the Administrative State

Environmental Law

Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) is now widely known and used, but it is also widely misunderstood – by many of its advocates as well as its detractors.  Over the next few weeks I want to examine some of the strengths and weaknesses of BCA as a normative science; and, yes, that phrase is an oxymoron, which is a source of much of the controversy.  BCA is an imperfect answer, but often perhaps the best available answer, to the question of how a society should go about making collective but not unanimous choices.  Nowhere is its use more contested than in its application to decisions by regulatory agencies.

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Coherence in the Executive

I can only applaud the excellent “to do list” in Adam White’s Liberty Forum essay, even as I scan the absentee ballot that I received in September wondering whether any of the leading candidates would have the good sense to give the list the attention it deserves. But we are giving advice here, not forecasting the future, and so we persevere in the face of obvious obstacles to progress. The first item on the White List—rescinding President Obama’s worst regulatory excesses—should be front and center in the earliest days of the new administration. I would suggest making a distinction between those…

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Wishing for a Goat, Not a Hero

Adam White’s Liberty Forum essay offers 10 ways for our 45th President to promote the rule of law, many of which I find appealing. But I fear he could offer a thousand such ideas without much effect, and in the end he concedes that he, too, doubts that Presidents will restrain themselves or their governments…

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Understanding Why and How the Obama Administration Has Flouted the Rule of Law

It is very difficult to take issue with the pessimistic tone of Adam White’s sensible advice to the next President on 10 ways to promote the rule of law. All of the topics that he mentions are understood as serious, systemic weaknesses. When it comes to administrative law, President Obama has a penchant for excessive…

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A (Long) Path to Reforming Our Administrative State

When Law and Liberty invited me to write on 10 things that a new president could do to promote the rule of law, I was struck by how counterintuitive the question was. After years upon years of debate over presidents pushing the boundaries of the constitutional powers (and not just during the most recent administration,…

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The New Cronyism of the Old Rent-Seeking State

Michael Greve’s essay vividly describes some deeply troubling trends in the relationship between the government and the economy. It provides a much needed perspective at a time when politics and policy-making are nothing if not adversarial, and more casual observers succumb to the temptation simply to choose sides without asking how we came to this ugly state of public affairs and where it might be headed. At the same time, however, I fear that Greve’s coinage of “adversarial corporatism,” however apt, will be too often misunderstood. Like “crony capitalism,” it will lead those who inhabit the shallow news-bite space (and…

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