While my colleague Wayne Crews’s $1.9 trillion figure is ultimately an educated guess, it is based on the government’s own guesses, so it’s probably the least controversial available estimate. It is also almost surely an undercount. Opportunity costs such as products never invented, factories never built, and chances never taken all defy calculation. But you can only fight the battle with the army you have, so let’s stick with the $1.9 trillion figure for now. Since any number with that many zeroes and commas in it is difficult for the human mind to process, let’s put it in a more digestible way. With $1.9 trillion you could:
- Buy 23,750 Boeing 737 planes
- Fund 4,000 space shuttle launches
- Buy Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” 19,000 times
- Buy nearly 5,500 Hope diamonds
Another way to picture regulatory costs is to ask how much they cost the average household. That number is about $15,000 per year. With that kind of extra money lying around, every household in America could:
- Buy last year’s Honda Civic… every year.
- Fly round-trip to Dubai in first class… every year
- Buy 23 iPhone 7s… every year.
- Buy 21 pairs of Louboutins… every year
Instead, we pay for everything from ensuring the holes in Swiss cheese are just the right size, that drawbridges go up and down on federally set schedules, and that new life saving drugs will take a decade or more to come to market.
Finally, note that these costs are for federal rules only. State and local regulations cost extra.