NR Digital

Carbon Legerdemain

by Steven F. Hayward
Regulators invoke spurious cost-benefit analyses

Shortly after his inauguration in 1993, President Bill Clinton was greeted with a full-page open-letter advertisement in the New York Times from David Brower, the renowned “arch-druid” of the environmental movement, that bore the striking headline “Economics Is a Form of Brain Damage.” (Remember that slogan, popular with the environmental Left, the next time someone says it’s conservatives who reject science.)

The essence of Brower’s letter was to urge Clinton, following twelve years of Republican rule, to please not listen to the cost-benefit analyses of economists, especially with regard to environmental regulations. The Reagan and Bush administrations had systematically, though imperfectly, elevated cost-benefit analysis in the regulatory process, successfully blocking or altering many proposed regulations in the 1980s and early 1990s. Brower and many environmentalists hoped Clinton would rescind Reagan’s executive orders requiring cost-benefit analysis and disband the Office of Independent Regulatory Analysis (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget, which was proving to be a stumbling block to heedless regulators.

Send a letter to the editor.