Unexpectedly Intriguing!
18 October 2012

The Mercatus Center has launched a new web app, RegData:

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is proud to announce the launch of a breakthrough database that provides a dramatically improved measure of the federal regulatory burden.

RegData is the first database to count the actual number of restrictions in the Code of Federal Regulations, as opposed to the former method of simply counting total pages. The interactive tool enables a far more focused view of the regulatory burden by measuring the growth of regulation by industry. While previous methods provided an idea of the growth of overall regulation, they told nothing about how those regulations affected specific sectors in the economy.

Here are the results in looking at the growth in the total number of regulations since 1997:

Mercatus Center RegData: All Regulatory Restrictions, 1997-2010

In 1997, there were 834,949 instances of the words "may not", "must", "prohibited", "required" and "shall" in the Federal Register, which coincide with each single rule implemented by the U.S. federal government.

By 2010, that number had risen to 1,001,153, an increase of 16.6% in 13 years. Or if you prefer, an average rate of increase of 12,808 per year.

For the preceding 208 years, going back to 1789, the average rate of increase of regulations in the U.S. was just 4,013 per year.

The RegData database can also break down the data by industry or by type of regulation - the only real limitation we see is that it only covers data from 1997 onward. All in all, pretty cool!

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