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2012 Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State Released

Among other principles, America’s prosperity is based upon ideas such as free markets, limited government, low taxes, and economic freedom. And regulation is a component of economic freedom, according to the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics at the Library of Economics and Liberty.

Consequently, it was good to see last week that the Competitive Enterprise Institute published their 2012 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments, their “annual snapshot of the Federal regulatory state.” The snapshot is the work of Clyde Wayne Crews, the institute’s vice president for policy. Here is the short version of the overview:

“The scope of federal government spending and deficits is sobering. Yet the government’s reach extends well beyond the taxes Washington collects and its deficit spending and borrowing. Federal environmental, safety and health, and economic regulations cost hundreds of billions—perhaps trillions—of dollars every year over and above the costs of the official federal outlays that dominate the policy debate.

“Economics 101 on tax incidence explains how and why firms generally pass along to consumers the costs of some taxes. Likewise, some regulatory compliance costs that businesses face will find their way into the prices consumers pay and into wages earned. Precise regulatory costs can never be fully known because, unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted and often indirect—even unmeasurable as such. But scattered government and private data exist on scores of regulations and on the agencies that issue them, as well as estimates of regulatory costs and benefits. Compiling some of that information can make the regulatory state somewhat more comprehensible. That is one purpose of the annual Ten Thousand Commandments report.”

Here are the first three of the report’s highlights:

  • “Estimated regulatory costs, while "off budget," are equivalent to over 48% the level of federal spending itself.
  • “The 2011 Federal Register finished at 81,247 pages, just shy of 2010’s all-time record-high 81,405 pages.
  • “Regulatory compliance costs dwarf corporate income taxes of $198 billion, and exceed individual income taxes and even pre-tax corporate profits.”

Here’s one of the charts from the report, showing how regulatory costs compared with selected taxes and corporate profits:

A great job, Mr. Crews. Thank you.


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