Policy Documents

Ten Thousand Commandments 2014: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State

Clyde Wayne Crews –
April 29, 2014

The scope of federal government spending and deficits is sobering, but federal regulations cost hundreds of billions – perhaps trillions – of dollars annually. Unfortunately, they get little attention in policy debates. Regulatory costs are difficult to quantify because, unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted and often indirect. Ten Thousand Commandments – an annual report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- compiles scattered government and private data on the numbers and costs of regulations and about the agencies that issue them, in an attempt to make the regulatory state more comprehensible.

Highlights of the 2014 edition include:

  • Combined with $3.454 trillion in federal spending, Washington’s share of the economy now reaches 31 percent.
  • Costs for Americans to comply with federal regulations reached $1.863 trillion in 2013. That is more than the GDPs of Canada or Australia.
  • This is the 21st edition of Ten Thousand Commandments. In that time, 87,282 final rules have been issued. That’s more than 3,500 per year or about nine per day.
  • The “Unconstitutionality Index” is the ratio of regulations issued by agencies compared to legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The ratio stood at 51 for 2013. That means there were 72 new laws and 3,659 new rules – 51 rules for every law, or a new rule every 2 ½ hours.
  • Regulatory costs amount to an average of $14,974 per household – 23 percent of the average household income of $65,596 and 29 percent of the expenditure budget of $51,442. This exceeds every item in the household budget except housing – more than health care, food, transportation, entertainment, apparel, services, and savings. Some 63 departments, agencies and commissions have regulations in the pipeline.