Yesterday, the 2011 Federal Register hit the 70,000 page milestone. This is just the 14th time in the Register‘s 76-year history the unadjusted page count has gotten that high. And remember, it’s still November. It’s on pace to top 80,000 pages.
To be more precise, assuming 250 working days this year, the projected page count is currently 80,641. That would place 2011 in top-five territory for all-time unadjusted page counts. President Carter set the record in his final year with 87,012 pages.
Adjusting that count for thousands of blank pages and jumps yields 73,258 pages, a then-record that was broken five times by George W. Bush and once (so far) by Barack Obama. He set the new record adjusted page count last year with 81,405.
The usual caveat applies here. Federal Register page counts are not a perfect measure of regulatory activity. A rule that costs little can ramble on for dozens of pages; a rule costing billions can fit on a single page. But when page counts threaten all-time records, it’s a pretty good indicator that the regulation industry is booming.
In short: the next time someone complains about America’s unregulated cowboy capitalism, you should ask them where such a thing might actually be found.