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Enduring the legacy of

The View from Here

As we relegate the Clinton Administration to the dustbin of history, one legacy is already beginning to have an effect on American business and industry: midnight regulations.

Long a political tradition for both Democrats and Republicans, issuing these time-is-running-out fiats has consumed many a president’s last few months in office.

Indications from a number of sources, including the National Association of Manufacturers, are that President Clinton will set the record for issuing these last-minute regulatory decrees.

Midnight regulations, the term coined just after Jimmy Carter left the White House, offer politicians and bureaucrats a final chance at leaving a mark on our government. Unfortunately, these often controversial mandates (like new ergonomics standards) end up costing small business and big industry.

According to Jay Cochran III, “Since 1948, the long-run tendency is for regulations during the post election quarter to increase nearly 17% (16.8%) on average over the volumes prevailing during similar periods in off-election years. (A simple averaging of the raw data — without controlling for economic, election year, and partisan effects — yields the result that regulations increase during the post-election quarter between 25% and 32%.)”

Cochran, a fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, has helped define the concept of midnight regulations with his study,

“The Cinderella Constraint: Why Regulations Increase Significantly During Post-Election Quarters.”

The Mercatus Center’s new Web site on the phenomenon is online at www.regradar.org, and it’s worth taking a look at if you’re in business.

Whether or not you agree with a midnight regulation boils down to how it impacts you, your business, your bottom line. All about perspective.

About one thing we should all agree: midnight regulations are not a good way to govern. They are the result of failed policy agendas and frustrated egos.

Regrettably, there are few indications that future administrations will stem this dark tide.

Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at jlaird@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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