Reams of Regulation


In their commentary released Wednesday on the Detroit News website, Wayne Crews and Ryan Young summarized the shocking results of Crews’ Ten Thousand Commandments, his annual report on federal regulations. 

Businesses spent $1.17 trillion in 2008 to comply with federal regulations. The government spent another $49.1 billion to enforce them. The total spent on regulation is right up there with Canada’s entire 2006 gross domestic product of $1.265 trillion.

The 2008 Federal Register weighed in at 79,435 pages, an all-time record. More than 60 agencies passed 3,830 new rules last year. The federal regulatory pipeline now has 4,003 rules at various stages of implementation. Of those, 783 affect small businesses.

The government calls a regulation “economically significant” if it costs $100 million or more. One hundred and eighty such rules came onto the books in 2008, costing the economy at least $18 billion. This is an increase of 13 percent over 2007, which in turn was up by 14 percent from the year before.

Assuming copy paper thickness, that would make the Federal Register approximately 25 feet thick.

In a recent article for the Acton Institute Oskari Juurikkala weighs the costs of regulation.

When an external intervention is perceived as controlling and not respecting the rightful autonomy and reasonableness of the person, extrinsic motivation tends to crowd out intrinsic motivation. When people feel that they are being forced to act in a certain way, their behavior becomes more extrinsically guided.

The question is whether government regulation crowds out the intrinsic motivation that drives business.  I think 25 feet of solid paper is enough to crowd any desk. 

Adam Rule – MCPP Intern

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