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The Internet of Things and Wearable Technology: Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns without Derailing Innovation

December 9, 2014 Comments off

The Internet of Things and Wearable Technology: Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns without Derailing Innovation
Source: Mercatus Center (George Mason University)

The “Internet of Things”—smart devices that are connected to both the Internet and other devices—and wearable technology promise to usher in the next great wave of Internet-enabled services and data-driven innovation. The Internet will be “baked in” to almost everything that consumers own. Some critics are worried about the privacy and security implications of the Internet of Things and wearable technology, so they are proposing regulation.

In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, scholar Adam Thierer shows that preemptive, top-down regulation would derail the many life-enriching innovations that could come from these new technologies. The study argues that permissionless innovation, which allows new technology to flourish and develop in a relatively unabated fashion, is the superior approach to the Internet of Things. Combining public education, oversight, industry best practices, and transparency in a balanced, layered approach will be the proper way to address concerns about the Internet of Things—not prospective regulation based on hypothetical scenarios.

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Curbing the Surge in Year-End Federal Government Spending: Reforming “Use It or Lose It” Rules

October 10, 2014 Comments off

Curbing the Surge in Year-End Federal Government Spending: Reforming “Use It or Lose It” Rules (PDF)
Source: Mercatus Center (George Mason University)

The “use it or lose it” phenomenon refers to the propensity of US government agencies to spend unused financial resources toward the end of the fiscal year out of fear that leftover resources will be returned to the Department of the Treasury, and will prompt future congressional budget cuts for the agency. While anecdotes and media stories of year – end spending surges are widespread , empirical support for year – end spending surges or the motivation behind them is significantly less available. T he budget and spending literature has examined the efficacy of policy solutions designed to curb year – end spending surges, but these studies have often been done without empirical evidence. In this paper, we examine existing literature on the prevalence, consequences, wastefulness, and causes of year – end spending surges. We then report executive departments’ year – end obligated federal contract expenditure patterns using data obtained from USASpending.gov. We review literature on purported solutions to curb year – end spending surges, and conclude with a policy recommendation of our own.

Government-Financed Employment and the Real Private Sector in the 50 States

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Government-Financed Employment and the Real Private Sector in the 50 States
Source: Mercatus Center

In 2012, public-sector employment made up more than 16 percent of the US labor market. Direct government employment fails to capture the full impact of government spending on state labor markets. Using federal contract data obtained from USAspending.gov, we estimated the percentage of private sector jobs actually financed by federal contract dollars in each state. The following four maps visualize our findings.

Accompanying each map are rankings for all 50 states in each map category. National averages were calculated by using figures that equal the sum of the corresponding data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Real private sector jobs were calculated by subtracting Federal-contract funded private sector jobs from total nonfarm private-sector payroll jobs. Federal contract–funded private-sector jobs are estimated by calculating federal contract spending as a percentage of the sum of federal contract spending and nonfarm private-sector GDP and multiplying that percentage by total nonfarm private-sector payroll jobs. (Note: For Rhode Island and Delaware, “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” GDP for 2012 was not reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. For these states, we treat nonagricultural private sector GDP as equivalent to private sector GDP.)

The impact of federal contract dollars on state labor markets varies widely. We estimate that, in more than half of the states, less than 2 percent of the labor market is employed by jobs funded by federal contract dollars. However, in a few notable instances (Maryland, New Mexico, and Virginia), between 7.7 and 10.7 percent of nonfarm payroll jobs are funded by the federal government through contract dollars given to private sector firms.

Loving the Cyber Bomb? The Dangers of Threat Inflation in Cybersecurity Policy

June 24, 2011 Comments off

Loving the Cyber Bomb? The Dangers of Threat Inflation in Cybersecurity Policy
Source: Mercatus Center (George Mason University)

Over the past two years there has been a steady drumbeat of alarmist rhetoric coming out of Washington about potential catastrophic cyber threats. For example, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last year, Chairman Carl Levin said that “cyberweapons and cyberattacks potentially can be devastating, approaching weapons of mass destruction in their effects.” Proposed responses include increased federal spending on cybersecurity and the regulation of private network security practices.

The rhetoric of “cyber doom” employed by proponents of increased federal intervention, however, lacks clear evidence of a serious threat that can be verified by the public. As a result, the United States may be witnessing a bout of threat inflation similar to that seen in the run-up to the Iraq War. Additionally, a cyber-industrial complex is emerging, much like the military-industrial complex of the Cold War. This complex may serve to not only supply cybersecurity solutions to the federal government, but to drum up demand for them as well.

Part I of this article draws a parallel between today’s cybersecurity debate and the run-up to the Iraq War and looks at how an inflated public conception of the threat we face may lead to unnecessary regulation of the Internet. Part II draws a parallel between the emerging cybersecurity establishment and the military-industrial complex of the Cold War and looks at how unwarranted external influence can lead to unnecessary federal spending. Finally, Part III surveys several federal cybersecurity proposals and presents a framework for analyzing the cybersecurity threat.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom

June 13, 2011 Comments off

Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom
Source: Mercatus Center (George Mason University)

This study comprehensively ranks the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. It updates, expands, and improves upon our inaugural 2009 Freedom in the 50 States study. For this new edition, we have added more policy variables (such as bans on trans fats and the audio recording of police, Massachusetts’s individual health-insurance mandate, and mandated family leave), improved existing measures (such as those for fiscal policies, workers’ compensation regulations, and asset-forfeiture rules), and developed specific policy prescriptions for each of the 50 states based on our data and a survey of state policy experts. With a consistent time series, we are also able to discover for the first time which states have improved and worsened in regard to freedom recently.

+ Full Report (PDF)

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