Mapping Washington's Lawlessness: A Preliminary Inventory of Regulatory Dark Matter (2017 Edition)

Issue Analysis, No. 4, 2017

66 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016 Last revised: 6 Jul 2017

See all articles by Clyde Crews Jr.

Clyde Crews Jr.

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Date Written: March 1, 2017


Congress passes and the president signs a few dozen laws every year; meanwhile federal departments and agencies issue well over 3,000 rules and regulations of varying significance. A weekday rarely passes without new regulation. What we have less grasp on is the amount of and cost of the many thousands of other executive branch and federal agency proclamations and issuances such as memoranda, guidance documents, bulletins, circulars, announcements and the like with practical if not always technically legally binding regulatory effect. Along with numerous presidential executive orders and memoranda, there are hundreds of “significant” agency guidance documents now in effect, plus thousands of other guidances and proclamations going by various names that receive little scrutiny or democratic accountability. This report is an effort at outlining the scope of this “regulatory dark matter.” It concludes with steps for Congress to address dark matter and to halt the over-delegation of legislative power that has permitted it.

Keywords: federal regulation, guidance documents, administrative procedure act, Federal Register, Notice and Comment, legislative rules, non-legislative rules

JEL Classification: A1, H1

Suggested Citation

Crews Jr., Clyde, Mapping Washington's Lawlessness: A Preliminary Inventory of Regulatory Dark Matter (2017 Edition) (March 1, 2017). Issue Analysis, No. 4, 2017, Available at SSRN:

Clyde Crews Jr. (Contact Author)

Competitive Enterprise Institute ( email )

1310 L St,
7th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
United States


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics