The Biden administration’s OMB is moving to eliminate consideration of opportunity costs from the administration’s estimates of the costs of proposed regulations, a move that would make those regulations seem cheaper than they are.
Opportunity costs are at the core of free market economics, and The Wall Street Journal‘s editors offer a succinct definition [emphasis added].
Consider a business that spends $1 million obeying a regulation by making an upgrade, installing new equipment, hiring lawyers, and whatever else compliance entails.
[O]pportunity cost is what the $1 million would have been used for absent the regulation. It might have been spent on research and development, hiring, increasing output, or paying bonuses to employees, who in turn would spend it on something else.
An accountant would say the cost of this regulation is $1 million, and this is basically how President Biden’s OMB wants regulators and the public to think as well. A good economist knows better and would account not only for the dollars spent but also the forgone rate of return on activities never taken up due to regulatory compliance.
Thus, opportunity cost estimating is a critical way in which businessmen—not just economists—estimate the value of a variety of potential moves in an effort to identify the one (or two in concert with each other) that make the most business sense/provide highest and most likely return(s) on the actual dollars that would actually be committed.
Biden’s move is not just an attempt to…mislead…us ordinary Americans regarding the costs of the Biden regulatory state, it’s an outright attack on our free market economy and an attempt to replace it with his regulatory state, economic decisions from the center, economy.