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Federal Regulatory Cost, 2013: $1.9 Trillion

Written by Gary North on October 1, 2014

Taxation, regulation, inflation, and war: these are the four horsemen of the federal apocalypse. Cut these, and the state gets smaller. Of these, regulation gets the least attention.

Regulation is the heart of the beast, for it operates in secret. It can be found in the pages of The Federal Register: about 80,000 pages, three columns, per year. But this only lists the regulations, not the financial burden.

There are no official guidelines on the costs imposed. But an annual book-long estimate is Ten Thousand Commandments, which was the title of a 1951 book by Harold Fleming. You can download Fleming’s book on the Mises Institute’s site.

Here is a short video on the 2014 edition.


Highlights of the 2014 Edition Include:

Combined with $3.454 trillion in federal spending, Washington’s share of the economy now reaches 31 percent.

Costs for Americans to comply with federal regulations reached $1.863 trillion in 2013. That is more than the GDPs of Canada or Australia.

This is the 21st edition of Ten Thousand Commandments. In that time, 87,282 final rules have been issued. That’s more than 3,500 per year or about nine per day.

Regulatory costs amount to an average of $14,974 per household – 23 percent of the average household income of $65,596 and 29 percent of the expenditure budget of $51,442.

The 2013 Federal Register contains 79,311 pages, the fourth highest ever. The top two all-time totals are 81,405 pages in 2010 and 81,247 in 2011, both under Obama.

The top six federal rulemaking agencies account for 49.3 percent of all federal rules. In 2013, these were the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce, Interior, Health and Human Services, and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Small businesses pay more in per-employee regulatory costs. Firms with fewer than 20 employees pay an average of $10,585 per employee, compared to $7,755 for those with 500 or more employees.

Add to this state and local regulation, which is truly invisible. There is no estimate for these.

The men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 to design the Constitution did not see this coming.

The Anti-Federalists did.

I wrote a book on this. It is the most hated book I ever wrote.

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4 thoughts on “Federal Regulatory Cost, 2013: $1.9 Trillion

  1. Phillip the Bruce says:

    Love that book – recommend it often.

  2. Hated? Not by me – I refer to mine often (bought hard copy yrs. ago – like you say, Picard syndrome).

  3. Wow, it's one I haven't read but I LOVED Political Polytheism. I will read it pronto. It is a book that is truly hard, in that the truth can so alter our preconceived viewpoints as to make it more than mildly disconcerting to our lives. I'm sure Philadelphia must be a continuation but like Productive Christians, can cause big changes…ultimately.

  4. Public Citizen says:

    The sad truth is that the costs to the private sector are invariably ~underestimated~.
    By the time it gets down to the small business and individual efforts to comply with this bysantine and increasingly conflicting body of bureaucratic demands for our time and money the accounting slips and a lot of time and money falls through the cracks.
    An addition of 20% as a fiddle factor wouldn't be out of line in my opinion, based on my personal time and effort involved in just trying to deal with changing FDA Regulations that are making it increasingly difficult to obtain the prescribed medication that my doctor orders to treat a number of personal circumstances.