Federal commandments come at a massive cost

It’s a common, albeit imprecise, complaint: Government regulations hurt the economy. However, the latest version of an annual report assigns a specific number to the collective cost of federal regulations, and it’s a whopper: nearly $1.9 trillion.

According to an analysis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the compliance costs and economic effects of federal regulations in the United States reached $1.863 trillion in 2013.

That number is more than half the size of the federal budget for 2013 and more than the entire annual economic output of many countries, among them Australia and Canada. Here’s yet another way to consider the scope of the situation: The report estimates that regulatory costs average nearly $15,000 per household.

The institute, a nonpofit public policy group based in Washington, D.C. promoting free enterprise and limited government, compiles government and private data on the number and costs of regulations in an annual report titled “Ten Thousand Commandments.”

The report noted that for 2013, the Federal Register —  the official government publication of rules, proposed rules and notices — totaled 79,311 pages, the fourth most ever. While 72 new laws were enacted, 3,659 new rules were imposed, an average of almost 51 rules for every law.

The news isn’t any better for businesses, particularly small businesses. According to the report, small businesses shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of regulatory costs. Firms with fewer than 20 employees pay an average of $10,585 per employee, while firms with 500 or more employees pay an average of $7,755 per employee.

Unfortunately, the growing costs of federal regulation isn’t some vague threat. As the report makes clear, the accumulative effect of  thousands of commandments on the economy is massive.