Report: It Would Take Three Years to Read All the Federal Government's Rules

Patrick McLaughlin of the Virginia-based Mercatus Center released a report recently on the Code of Federal Regulations, which compiles all the rules and regulations promulgated by all the federal government's departments and agencies

McLaughlin says it is impossible to understand the rules by reading them. He concludes that since the average adult reads at a rate of 250 to 300 words per minute, it would take nearly three years (5,727 hours) to read the entire 103 million word code (2012 edition, updated annually).

“The American regulatory system has no working, systematic process for reviewing regulations for obsolescence or poor performance,” McLaughlin said in an email. “Over time, this has facilitated the accumulation of a vast stock of regulations. Regulatory accumulation can negatively affect GDP growth, labor productivity, innovation, and safety — perhaps explaining why every president since Jimmy Carter has recognized it as a problem. But so far, none of them has been able to solve it.”

ForTheRecord says: For context, McLaughlin points out that it would take 26 hours to read the 473,000 word The Lord of the Rings trilogy. How many code violations would Frodo have been guilty of if The Shire had as extensive a body of regulations as the U.S. federal government? Among the violations celebrated by the LOTR trilogy was an unregistered weapon (Sting) and a valuable ring that may have been the proceed of a crime at some point. Nor is there any mention of pipe-smoking Frodo paying tax on his tobacco.