The administrative state is huge, and it’s only getting bigger

The Washington Post highlights Wayne Crews’s research on the federal regulatory state. 

Just what White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon meant when he recently suggested “deconstructing the administrative state” is unclear. To critics, he would gut the whole superstructure of social and environmental safeguards, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency (which, say news reports, may face a staff cut of one-fifth). But regardless of Bannon’s meaning, the relentless growth of the administrative state is a reality that we can’t escape.

To be clear about vocabulary: The “administrative state” and “the regulatory state” are essentially one and the same. It is a gigantic enterprise. Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank, estimates that the costs of complying with federal rules and regulations totaled nearly $1.9 trillion in 2015, equal to about half the federal budget ($3.7 trillion in 2015).

It’s time to make the administrative state a mainstream concept, through the creation of a regulatory budget. The point is not to justify the instant repeal of most rules, as Bannon’s critics fear, but to improve understanding and accountability. We need to develop a better idea of the impact of regulation on both government and the economy. Until now, we’ve tended to examine regulations in isolation — an understandable bias, because (for instance) there’s not much connection between a regulation on food safety and one affecting the electrical grid.

But that’s just the point: By comparing the costs and benefits of dissimilar regulations, we may discover which are truly valuable and which could be discarded without much, if any, loss. Or we may learn that an approach in one area could be profitably adopted in another. The costs of regulation, though initially imposed on businesses, are usually transferred to consumers through higher prices.

In 2015, the Code of Federal Regulations totaled 178,277 pages in 237 volumes, reports Crews’s annual study. At the end of the year, there were 3,297 new rules in the pipeline; 218 were “economically significant,” meaning that they were projected to have an annual impact of $100 million or more.

Read the full article at The Washington Post