About the Problem

The U.S. regulatory system is increasingly complex and incomprehensible and the costs are adding up.

Regulatory

About the Policy

Whenever departments and agencies propose new regulations, require them to propose eliminating an existing regulation with comparable cost impact.

Public Support

70% of All Polled
65% of Democrats
76% of Republicans
67% of Independents

Polling data derived from three national surveys conducted by Cohen Research Group in February and March 2016. Each survey had a sample size of at least 1,000 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%

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Economist Michael Mandel has argued that regulations are like "pebbles in a stream."

"No single regulation or regulatory activity is going to deter innovation by itself, just like no single pebble is going to affect a stream," writes Mandel. "But if you throw in enough small pebbles, you can dam up the stream. Similarly, add enough rules, regulations, and requirements, and suddenly innovation begins to look a lot less attractive."

In the United States, regulatory agencies have a clear cause to create new regulations, and far less incentive to eliminate existing regulations. Consequentially, the U.S. regulatory system is increasingly complex and the costs are adding up.

As of 2014, this country had over 175,000 pages of federal regulation. For context, there were only about 10,000 pages in 1950.

Most Americans agree we need common sense rules and regulations to protect citizens, preserve our environment and promote public safety. And indeed, many of the existing regulations are beneficial. But taken as a whole, the regulatory system is burdensome and has detrimental effects on economic development.

As Tyler Cohen, a professor at George Mason contends, "We are continually increasing the obstacles to doing business. America has lost the robust productivity growth of much of the postwar era, and the share of start-ups in the economy has been falling each decade since the 1980s. Although overregulation is hardly the only culprit, it is very likely contributing to the problem."

To address this problem, we must create incentives for making the regulatory apparatus more efficient.

Here's one idea that could help in that effort: Whenever departments and agencies propose new regulations, Congress should require them to propose eliminating an existing regulation with comparable cost impact. This will compel the federal government to more actively weed out redundant, wasteful, and out-dated regulations, while still promoting new regulatory ideas that can help ensure safety and economic prosperity.