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This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

The big news this week was the release of the 2018 edition of CEI’s annual report on regulatory costs, “10,000 Commandments”. Agencies continued to provide fodder for next year’s edition with 49 proposed regulations and 61 final regulations last week, ranging from clam insurance to wireless signal boosters.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 61 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 72 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 45 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 958 final regulations in 2017. At that pace, there will be 3,111 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,281 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,827 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,161 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 17,977 pages. It is on pace for 58,367 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. One such rule has been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $115 million.
  • Agencies have published 33 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 154 new rules affect small businesses; 8 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see “10,000 Commandments” and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

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Lessons for Congress from ‘10,000 Commandments’: Regulatory Budgets

One of the lessons learned from this year’s “10,000 Commandments” study is that Congress needs to be more involved in the regulatory process. It needs to make sure that agencies only regulate when legislation tells them to, and it needs to vet major new regulations. Over at USA Today, study author Wayne Crews and I make the case that Congress should also establish an annual regulatory budget:

Just as the federal government releases an annual spending budget, an annual regulatory budget would allow each federal agency a certain amount of costs that they could impose on American businesses and consumers. This would force agencies to prioritize rules that are efficient and effective, and ditch rules that are outdated, burdensome or fail to accomplish their goals.

As it is now, agencies largely police themselves, allowing them to get away with number-fudging and skewed assumptions without adequate oversight or accountability. To date, Congress has been unwilling to step in, preferring to blame unelected agencies when a regulation is unpopular or controversial. A regulatory budget would restore some accountability to agency behavior, while allowing Congress to set the rules of the road.

See the full article here. And read the brand new “10,000 Commandments” for 2018 here.

‘10,000 Commandments’ at 25: What Have We Learned, What’s to Come?

As my colleague Richard Morrison wrote yesterday, this year marks the 25thanniversary of Wayne Crews’ first “10,000 Commandments” report, published in 1993 by the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation (the brand new 2018 edition is here). A lot has happened since then:

  • Since 1993, federal agencies have issued 101,380 new regulations.
  • The Code of Federal Regulations gained more than 50,000 pages, and now stands at 186,374 pages, spread across 242 volumes.
  • From 1997-2017, federal agencies issued 16,275 new regulations that affect small businesses.
  • A 1992 Regulatory Information Service Center study estimated the total regulatory burden at $543 billion dollars ($976 billion in 2017 dollars). 10,000 Commandments’ estimate for 2017 is $1.9 trillion.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this astounding growth, it is that the rulemaking process itself needs new rules. Under the current system, agencies are not supposed to regulate willy-nilly; they have to act according to congressional legislation. But it doesn’t work that way in practice. Current procedures have large loopholes that allow agencies to dodge these legal requirements. Many controversial rules, from net neutrality to power plants, are either issued unilaterally via the president’s pen and phone, or take the form of regulatory “dark matter”: guidance documents, Federal Register notices, sue-and-settle court cases, and more.

As the old saying goes, if you want better results, you need better rules of the game. For the regulatory state, this means more transparency and more accountability to the other two branches of government, and to the public.

There have been some heartening developments on this front recently. Since taking office, President Trump has issued a number of executive orders to temper such rapid regulatory growth. Tactics range from a “one-in-two-out” policy for new rules to capping net new regulatory costs at zero. The trouble is that the next president can undo all of these reforms with the stroke of a pen. Congress needs to make them permanent with legislation.

So far, they have been unwilling. A half a dozen or so reform bills have passed the House of Representatives. But the Senate has ignored them, despite a president from the same party who appears willing to sign them into law. Congress has revived the Congressional Review Act to get rid of more than a dozen onerous regulations—out of several thousand candidates. While it is nice to get rid of this or that dysfunctional rule, true reform has to work on the rulemaking process itself. Victories have been few on that front.

With a possible party change in one or both chambers of Congress this November, the time to pass structural reform legislation might be now or never. If the Senate says “never,” then job number one for reformers is to keep the ideas alive. Congress should continue to reintroduce bills such as the REINS Act and the Regulatory Improvement Act every session until political winds move in a more favorable direction, and they can finally pass both chambers and the president’s desk.

Wayne has ably documented the regulatory state for twenty-five years and running. But what will the next twenty-five years of “10,000 Commandments” look like? From here, the future looks precarious, but there is reason to be hopeful about reducing Washington’s regulatory bootprint on consumer choice and the economy. With persistence, good ideas, and a little luck, the 2043 edition “10,000 Commandments” will be much sunnier than this year’s.

For more info about the current state of the federal regulatory system and how to improve it, see the brand-new 2018 edition of 10,000 Commandments.”

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

The highlights from this week’s round of 36 proposed regulations and 72 final regulations range from licensing government inventions to the Department of Redundancy Department’s new rule for fishing in the “Bering Sea subarea of the Bering Sea”.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 72 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 70 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 20 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 897 final regulations in 2017. At that pace, there will be 3,115 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,281 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,161 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,202 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 16,150 pages. It is on pace for 57,366 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. One such rule has been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $115 million.
  • Agencies have published 30 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 145 new rules affect small businesses; 7 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

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

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

It may not feel like Spring yet, but regulatory agencies have turned their fancies to rulemaking, with 45 proposed and 70 final regulations ranging from the size of oranges to yellow lances.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 70 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 63 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 24 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 825 final regulations in 2017. At that pace, there will be 3,079 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,281 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,202 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 964 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 15,374 pages. It is on pace for 57,366 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. One such rule has been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $115 million.
  • Agencies have published 24 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 130 new rules affected small businesses; 7 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

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

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

With a full quarter of 2018 in the books, agencies have issued just one economically significant rule—an increase in State Department fees amounting to $115 million this year, barely meeting the $100 million threshold for economic significance. Even so, agencies in the last week issued new regulations ranging from Chilean cherimoyas to migratory birds.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 63 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 61 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 40 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 755 final regulations in 2017. At that pace, there will be 3,045 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,281 regulations.
  • Last week, 964 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,002 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 14,172 pages. It is on pace for 57,146 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. One such rule has been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2018’s economically significant regulations is $115 million.
  • Agencies have published 24 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 123 new rules affected small businesses; 7 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

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

The Goal of Economics

From p. 5 of Frank Knight’s 1951 book The Economic Organization:

Civilization should look forward to a day when the material product of industrial activity shall become rather its by-product, and its primary significance shall be that of a sphere for creative self-expression and the development of a higher type of individual and of human fellowship. It ought to be the first aim of economic policy to reduce the importance of economic policy in life as a whole.