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BPEA Article

Explaining Regulatory Policy

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Abstract

SINCE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, federal policymakers have regulated both the economic conduct—pricing, entry, and exit—and the social conduct—workplace and product safety, noise, and pollution—of substantial portions of the American businesss ector. The costs incurred by businesses in complying with these economic and social regulations have become huge, particularly during the past few decades. In 1992 they exceeded $500 billion a year. Although social regulation has increased steadily over the past twenty-five years, except for a brief dip during the Reagan years, deregulation during the late 1970s and early 1980s in several key industries-including the airlines, rail, and trucking-has freed, at least partially, roughly $600 billion of output from economic regulation. Naturally, businesses and consumers are curious about what to expect of regulatory policy in the future. Will the trend toward economic deregulation continue? Will social regulation continue to expand?

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