A Fresh Start: How to Address Regulations Suspended during the Coronavirus Crisis

Patrick A. McLaughlin, Senior Research Fellow & Director of Policy Analytics, Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Matthew D. Mitchell, Senior Research Fellow & Director of the Equal Liberty Initiative, Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Executive Summary: Theoretically, regulations can move markets in a more socially efficient or socially just direction by imposing rules over entry, quantity, price, input sourcing, advertising, disclosures, or business operations and technolo- gies. Unfortunately, while each of these tools can move a market in a more just or efficient direction, each may also be used to push it in a less just or less efficient direction. Because organized and informed special interests wield outsized influence over the regulatory process and because regulations accumulate without retrospective review, bad rules can persist for years or even decades. In this paper, we draw lessons from a successful reform effort—the Base Realignment and Closure (or BRAC) commission—to suggest one way to separate the bad rules from the good ones. We suggest that this process may be particularly valuable in evaluating the rules that were eased, modified, or suspended during the COVID-19 crisis.