Updates: Government and Markets

The Tobin Project held a briefing in Washington, D.C. for Senate staff, introducing New Perspectives on Regulation and the work and mission of the Tobin Project more generally. Participants included staff members from several Senators' offices as well as staffers from the Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

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New regulation shouldn't rely on old ideas. Since the 1960s, influential research on government failure helped to drive the movement for deregulation and privatization. Yet even as this branch of research was flourishing, very different ideas were sprouting in the social sciences with profound implications for our understanding of human behavior and the role of government. Some of these ideas, particularly from the field of behavioral economics, have begun to enter into discussions of regulatory purpose, design, and implementation.

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In May, the Tobin Project asked five scholar-experts from varying diciplines to respond to Elizabeth Warren's (Harvard Law School) proposal for a Financial Product Safety Commission (FPSC), which has been introduced in Congress.

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Today’s doctoral students will shape the intellectual paradigms that influence our public policy in the future. Yet this larger project can be obscured by career concerns and an attendant need to not stray too far from a discipline’s intellectual orthodoxies.

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America faces the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the heart of this economic turmoil has been debate about the role of regulation and deregulation both in precipitating the crisis and finding possible remedies. Given the sheer scale of federal assets now entrenched in troubled corporations, and the new administration’s ambitious reform objectives, we need more than ever a long-term reevaluation of the relationships between the market and the state.

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The Financial Product Safety Commission Act of 2009 has been introduced by Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA) in the House and by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate. The bills urge Congress to create a government body that would track and regulate consumer financial products, ideas derived directly from Elizabeth Warren’s (Harvard Law School) research and proposals. 

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The Tobin Project asks for grant proposals from scholars who intend to undertake new, policy-relevant research that will contribute to knowledge of regulatory governance and the appropriate role of the state and markets in economic regulation. Potential research topics may address four over-arching themes: models of economic and political behavior; strategies for assessing regulatory outcomes; information flows and regulatory politics; and regulatory strategy and design.

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What are the best ways to structure economic regulation in an age of rapid technological change, fraying social safety nets, globalization, and the reemergence of concentrated corporate power?

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In May 2007, the Risk working group met to consider "Managing Risk in the 21st Century" and to develop a research for the group going forward. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) attended the meeting and offered on-the-ground perspective, highlighting the challenges that policymakers face in proposing new policy.

The scholars contributed short papers for discussion at the meeting:

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In the Spring of 2007, three new Tobin Project working groups came together to discuss fundamental unanswered questions in their field and set an agenda for future research and engagement. These early working group meetings included Macroeconomics (with Representative John Spratt, Chair of the House Budget Committee), Health, and Retirement Security.

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