Tip of the Costberg: On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway, 2017 Edition

Clyde Wayne Crews Jr.

Competitive Enterprise Institute

January 8, 2017

We know the federal government spends over $3.5 trillion annually, but it remains surprising how little is known regarding the costs of individual categories of federal regulation and intervention, let alone costs in the aggregate. Estimates range from trillions in foregone GDP to a few tens of billions tallied by the Office of Management and Budget.

The 2017 edition of Costberg reckons a placeholder for regulations at around $1.902 trillion annually. In the recent “pen and phone” era of "getting things done" without Congress, regulation surged as a public policy issue. Already, it’s not enough to merely incorporate new costs from OMB’s annual reports to Congress on costs of regulation, sources like the Information Collection Budget, and those costs which independent agencies bother to acknowledge. Regulations plus interventions, bans, gov’t-steering-while-the-market-rows and the like may have impacts greater than government spending, but it is not monitored and disclosed like government spending,and accountability is abysmal. Unmeasured costs, and in particular, “regulatory dark matter,” the “costs of benefits” and citizens' loss of liberty imply that if we’re missing regulation, we are missing the biggest part of government’s role in the economy, perhaps society itself.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 170

Keywords: regulation, cost of regulation, regulatory costs, cost of government, federal budget, Federal Register, red tape, Unifed Agenda, Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations, Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, Code of Federal Regulation

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Date posted: October 2, 2014 ; Last revised: January 9, 2017

Suggested Citation

Crews Jr., Clyde Wayne, Tip of the Costberg: On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway, 2017 Edition (January 8, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2502883 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2502883

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Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. (Contact Author)
Competitive Enterprise Institute ( email )
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