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How to Count Regulations: A Primer for Regulatory Research

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Data and Research Intern Alex Engler wrote this post. The regulatory process is a politically charged arena, where the perception of over-regulating, or not regulating enough, can become a political liability.  Whether it’s Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce warning of the oncoming “tsunami” of regulations from President Obama, or the National Resource Defense Council striking at the Bush administration for an “assault on our clean air protections,” there can be no doubt that the perceived level of regulation matters. However, one should look skeptically towards assertions about the degree of rulemaking, especially when those assertions include specific numbers.  These claims are often based on research that can be structured so as to intentionally mislead. And beyond the political motivation in how one measures regulatory action, there are also many opportunities for genuine methodological error.

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