The number of new regulations this year passed 2,500 last week, and the Federal Register surpassed 60,000 pages. This week could see big news on everything from a possible trade deal with China to impeachment testimony. Meanwhile, rulemaking agencies published new regulations ranging from handling Florida tomatoes to rural telephone banks.
Competitive Enterprise Institute founder and “despairing optimist” Fred L. Smith, Jr. lamented to me once: “It’s so hard to centrally plan deregulation!”
Last week’s big stories included a thickening impeachment plot, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s resignation, and a letter written to the president of Turkey. In a bit of amusing but unsurprising news, it emerged that White House trade advisor Peter Navarro repeatedly quoted a made-up China expert in several of his books. The fictional character’s name, Ron Nava, is an anagram for “Navarro.” Meanwhile, rulemaking agencies published new regulations ranging from REAL ID compliance to importing cotton.
The latest Mad Libs-style political feud involves the NBA, the television cartoon South Park, and the Chinese government. President Trump also issued a pair of executive orders intended to rein in regulatory dark matter, and the 2019 Federal Register topped 55,000 pages. Rulemaking agencies published new regulations ranging from pedestrians and bicycle traffic to significant uses of fatty acids.
President Donald J. Trump on October 9th signed two executive orders (EOs) intended to improve and limit the use of guidance documents. This is good, potentially great, news for individuals and small businesses that have not violated any laws or even any regulations, and yet have felt the heavy hand of the regulatory state.
Yesterday the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) held a fascinating event on one of their marquee cases, Baldwin v. United States (read more in my post from last month—it’s the second of the four cases discussed). The case involves the Internal Revenue Service issuing a tax filing rule that conflicted both with legislation passed by Congress and with centuries-old common law practice.
On Friday, the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State held a fascinating conference, “The Administration of Democracy,” which covered issues like campaign finance law, apportionment, and the president’s tax returns. The fourth panel of the day, “The Democracy of Administration,” featured a discussion of the public comment process on proposed regulations, now accessed by most people via the web portal regulations.gov.
If government steers in some societal, industrial, or sector-specific endeavor via top-down national plans, agendas, or legislative schemes, it can generate ongoing regulatory costs even without further legislation and rules. Not infrequently, extraordinarily consequential policy choices can eclipse the handful of official regulatory cost estimates that policymakers typically regard as illustrative of government intervention.
Congress is out of session for the next two weeks, and the impeachment investigation will likely dominate headlines for some time to come. Meanwhile, the 2019 Federal Register topped 50,000 pages and rulemaking agencies published new regulations ranging from toll-free numbers to voluntary rabbit grading.