Category Archives: regulation

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Scientists may have found potential chemical evidence of life on Venus—phosphine gas, which in Venusian conditions may well have been produced by anaerobic (non-oxygen-using) microbes. No life forms have been directly observed, and phosphine is also present in the atmospheres of lifeless Jupiter and Saturn, but that is still a pretty big deal. In more earthly realms, regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from watermelon promotion to natural gas emissions.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 99 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 31 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every one hour and 42 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 2,328 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,198 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 55 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,568 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,154 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,146 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 449 notices, for a total of 16,089 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 22,100 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 3,012 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,112 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 59,172 pages. It is on pace for 81,280 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Four such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.19 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 54 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 462 new rules affect small businesses; 20 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

It was a four-day work week due to Labor Day. There were massive fires along the West coast, and Congress declined to pass a $500 billion spending bill because it was thought to be too small. Regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from domestic hemp production to Pyongyang flyovers.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 31 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 69 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every five hours and 25 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 2,229 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,148 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 30 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,513 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,137 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,146 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 336 notices, for a total of 15,640 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 22,090 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 1,112 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,713 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 56,470 pages. It is on pace for 79,760 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.38 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 50 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 447 new rules affect small businesses; 19 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

As Labor Day marked the unofficial end of summer, the unemployment rate went back down to 8.4 percent, and Attorney General Barr announced that the Justice Department will likely file an antitrust lawsuit against Google by the end of the month. Regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from relaxed DNA tolerance to semipostal stamps.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 69 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 68 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 26 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 2,198 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,176 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 39 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,483 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,143 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,146 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 474 notices, for a total of 15,304 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 22,116 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 1,713 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,618 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 55,323 pages. It is on pace for 79,947 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.38 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 49 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 439 new rules affect small businesses; 18 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Wearing Masks Is Good. But Mask Mandates Backfire

Steve Horwitz and Don Boudreaux recently joined forces for an excellent op-ed on mask mandates. They make some excellent points, including one highly relevant to the debate over police reform:

“By creating more opportunities for encounters between law enforcement and the citizenry, mask mandates create yet one more way for authorities to harass the relatively powerless. We’ve already seen that mandates are disproportionately enforced against people and communities of color.”

They also make solid points about bottom-up social norms versus top-down mandates. The whole piece is worth reading. But many people don’t seem to realize that there are effective ways to encourage good behavior without mandating it. Governance doesn’t always require government. In many case, governance is more effective without government. Wearing masks in public when there is a pandemic on is one of those things.

The alternative to mandates is social pressure. Don’t patronize stores that don’t enforce mask requirements, and let them now why. Give good publicity and your business to stores that do require masks. Don’t socialize in person with anti-maskers or let them into your home, and let them know why. Anti-maskers are the butts of jokes all over tv and the Internet. Let’s keep all that up.

The trouble is that social norms have shortcomings. They aren’t perfect, which is why some people favor mandates in addition to social norm enforcement.

After all, some people value their anti-masker in-group identity more than they value the approval of their friends, family, and community. Other people are just thoughtless of others. That does not mean, therefore mandates. It’s not as though such people are respecting mandates anyway.

Another important point is to think about mandates at the margin, the way an economist does. What additional impact would a mandate, on top of what people are already doing? How does this compare to the additional costs a mandate would impose, such as more police encounters?

Most people who wear masks in public will do so with or without a mandate. I don’t even know if my city has a mandate, and I don’t care. I wear a mask in public because I don’t want myself or anyone I care about to get sick. Most people are the same way. And it’s not like mandates convince anti-maskers see the error of their ways. They’re digging in. Mandates have near-zero marginal impact.

Finally, there is what Harold Demsetz called the Nirvana Fallacy—comparing the real world against a perfect theoretical model. With masks, the relevant comparison is not social pressure versus mandates as we *would like* them to work. It is social pressure versus mandates as they *actually do* work. Compare real with real, not real with ideal. If the only feasible choices are between bad and worse, choose bad. And let’s help people to be better.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

The spring 2020 Unified Agenda was published on August 17. Due four months ago, it collects every rulemaking agency’s plans for upcoming regulations. The fall 2020 edition is due in October, and this analyst is skeptical that it will appear on time. The number of new rules this year surpassed 2,000 last week. The 2020 Federal Register surpassed 50,000 pages, and is on pace to exceed last year’s edition by more than 12 percent. Regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from cooking with energy to contact lens prescriptions.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 78 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 51 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and nine minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 2,061 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,161 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 24 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,380 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,169 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,146 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 392 notices, for a total of 13,911 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 21,117 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 2,082 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,863 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 52,024 pages. It is on pace for 79,792 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.38 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 46 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 411 new rules affect small businesses; 18 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Kamala Harris was announced as the Democratic dvice-presidential candidate, a massive storm swept through the Midwest, and Congress is out of session until September. The number of new final regulations is also set to pass 2,000 this week. Regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from powerline vegetation to risky plywood.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 51 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, same as the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 18 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,982 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,176 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 30 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,356 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,169 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,146 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 392 notices, for a total of 13,911 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 21,011 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 1,863 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,476 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 49,939 pages. It is on pace for 79,018 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.38 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 43 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 388 new rules affect small businesses; 17 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

New CEI Video: Eliminating Never Needed Regulations to Help with Recovery

In a new CEI video, Kent Lassman talks about three things agencies can do rein in regulations that are hindering the COVID-19 response and making economic recovery even harder. Congress should establish an independent regulatory reduction commission. Agencies should go over their own rules and policies and prune them. And new rules should have automatic sunsets

On their own, members of Congress have neither the incentive nor the ability to thoroughly trim regulations. So, they should do what they did the last time they hit an impasse like this—establish an independent commission. When the Cold War ended and the military needed fewer bases, no one representative would vote to close the one in his or her district, even if the base’s resources would do more good if used differently, because they didn’t want to face the political backlash.

The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission solved the problem. It studied the situation and sent Congress a plan for which bases to keep and which to shrink or close. This was then put to an up-or-down vote, without possibility for amendment. The streamlining of the military worked. Individual members of Congress could avoid blame for specific base closures. And voters understood that if their base was affected by BRAC, it was a fair decision made for a good reason. Four rounds of BRAC saved billions of dollars.

We should do something similar for regulation. In fact, the idea has been around since the early 1980s, when Sen. Phil Gramm proposed a version of it. After other occasional proposals from both parties, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has just proposed her version of a regulatory BRAC. It’s a good idea, and it’s being taken seriously. With regulations harming the coronavirus response and the economy, now is the time to act on it.

Agencies should also so their own housework. Executive orders from President Trump have required agencies to get rid of two old rules for each new rule they enact; publish guidance documents in a single, searchable place in order to fight against the problem of regulatory “dark matter;” and most recently, to encourage agencies to use their emergency powers to wave rules that are getting in the way of an effective COVID response.

Finally, new regulations should have automatic sunsets. Just as cartons of milk have an expiration date, so should regulations. Times change; regulations often don’t. This rule would give agencies an incentive to periodically revisit and modernize their rules. Letting obsolete or harmful ones go is as simple as doing nothing; this is a fitting setup for a Congress that is rarely brave enough to take a stand on anything.

Please share the video on social media. For more on these proposals, see my recent paper “How to Make Sure Reformed #NeverNeeded Regulations Stay That Way.” More ideas are at neverneeded.cei.org.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

August’s 2020 disaster list so far includes a massive warehouse explosion in Beirut that killed more than 100 people and Hurricane Isaias. In positive news, Congress is out on its August recess, but could reconvene once the next COVID spending bill is negotiated. Bob and Doug, who in June became world social distancing champions by piloting SpaceX’s Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station, returned safely to Earth. They may well wish their trip had lasted longer. Regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from patent fees to squid specifications.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 51 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 54 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 18 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,931 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,160 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 41 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,326 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,169 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,167 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 444 notices, for a total of 13,159 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 21,502 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 1,467 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,473 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 48,072 pages. It is on pace for 78,550 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.38 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 41 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 380 new rules affect small businesses; 15 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

On the Radio – COVID-19 and Economic Recovery

Tomorrow morning (August 9), I’ll be on the Bab Zadek show from 8:00-9:00 PT (that’s 10-12 CT and 11-12 ET) for the whole hour. It airs on most of the West Coast, and live online here.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

What a week. COVID-19 deaths passed 150,000, and are on pace to be 2020’s third-leading cause of death in the United States. Second-quarter GDP declined  9.5 percent from a year ago and 7 percent from the previous quarter. This was the steepest drop in U.S. history. The same day that was announced, President Trump proposed delaying the election, which is a power no incumbent politician should have. Congressional Republicans quickly shot down the proposal. In more uplifting news, NASA launched the Perseverance Mars rover, which will land in February, hopefully without the coronavirus on board. It will search for evidence of microbial Martian life. Here on Earth, regulatory agencies issued new regulations ranging from crop marketing campaigns to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials accessing people’s medical records.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 54 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 79 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and seven minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,877 final regulations in 2020. At that pace, there will be 3,171 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 2,964 regulations.
  • There were 38 proposed regulations in the Federal Register last week, for a total of 1,284 on the year. At that pace, there will be 2,169 new proposed regulations in 2020. Last year’s total was 2,191 proposed regulations.
  • Last week, agencies published 406 notices, for a total of 13,049 in 2020. At that pace, there will be 22,650 new notices this year. Last year’s total was 21,804.
  • Last week, 1,473 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,374 pages the previous week.
  • The 2020 Federal Register totals 46,530 pages. It is on pace for 78,598 pages. The 2019 total was 70,938 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year. Four such rules were published in 2019.
  • The running cost tally for 2020’s economically significant regulations ranges from net savings of between $1.38 billion and $4.19 billion. 2019’s total ranges from net savings of $350 million to $650 million, mostly from estimated savings on federal spending. The exact number depends on discount rates and other assumptions.
  • Agencies have published 41 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year. 2019’s total was 66 significant final rules.
  • So far in 2020, 368 new rules affect small businesses; 15 of them are classified as significant. 2019’s totals were 501 rules affecting small businesses, with 22 of them significant.

Highlights from last week’s new regulations:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.