Environmental Policy under Reagan's Executive Order: The Role of Benefit-Cost Analysis

By V. Kerry Smith | Go to book overview

5

W. NORTON GRUBB * DALE WHITTINGTON
MICHAEL HUMPHRIES



THE AMBIGUITIES OF BENEFIT-COST ANALYSIS: AN EVALUATION OF REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSES UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER 12291

PRESIDENT Reagan wasted no time establishing his program of regulatory relief. Within two days of his inauguration, he created the Task Force on Regulatory Relief, chaired by Vice-President George Bush. On 17 February 1981, President Reagan signed Executive Order 12291, which established the dominance of benefit-cost principles for the evaluation of subsequent regulations. Although this executive order is a natural extension of the interest in benefit-cost analysis that has grown since the 1940s, EO 12291 also served a special political purpose for President Reagan: benefit-cost analysis might provide a mechanism that could confirm his contention that the "regulatory machine has run amuck" and has imposed "excessive and inefficient" regulations whose costs to society outweigh their benefits.

The adoption of EO 12291 raises a number of different questions. One

____________________
*
W. Norton Grubb, Associate Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin; Dale Whittington, Assistant Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Michael Humphries, Department of Economics, University of Texas at Austin.

The preparation of this chapter was partially supported by a grant from the Sloan Foundation to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and a Junior Faculty Development Award from the University of North Carolina. An earlier version was presented at the 1982 meetings of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Helpful comments were made by Kerry Smith, Jack Wells, Stephanie Chimenti, David Warner, Susan Hadden, Jurgen Schmandt, Tom McGarity, Richard Nelson, Richard Andrews, Tom Snyder, Dan Sokoloski, Robert Leone, and Emil Malizia.

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