Ed Clarke, who passed away last week, was the first EPA Desk Officer in OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs when it was created in 1981.
From the beginning, the EPA desk was OIRA’s liveliest, always contending with the most controversial regulatory decisions. But Ed was a wise and affable presence, and a mentor to those who came after him. His long career took him to other agencies and other countries, but it was anchored at OMB. Sometimes, Ed’s colleagues or his management found him difficult to understand, but typically that was because Ed was thinking more deeply about things than was customary in Washington. Trying to understand him was well worth the effort, though. As an example, consider the Clarke Tax, Ed’s creative solution to the core problem of Benefit-Cost Analysis: how to discover the truth about the value of public goods.