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Posted at 10:04 AM ET, 11/18/2010

The regulatory burden in one graph

By Ezra Klein

Michael Mandel has the chart:

regulatory.png

Between 1970 and 2000, the proportion of regulators to private workers stayed basically steady, and even drifted down a bit. Then came 9/11, and the explosive growth in security-related regulations (though, as Mandel notes, other regulatory sectors also experienced growth, albeit not as much), and the burden shot up. My guess is that the sharp rise you're seeing between 2007 and 2009 is an effect of private-sector employment plummeting rather than a lot of new regulators getting hired.

By Ezra Klein  | November 18, 2010; 10:04 AM ET
 
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Comments

So, just where did the massive deregulation that allegedly led to our economic woes occur?

Posted by: msoja | November 18, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

@msoja: "So, just where did the massive deregulation that allegedly led to our economic woes occur?"

Oh, snap! I didn't even think of that, but that's a darn good question.

That being said, that's a terrible chart. There's a pretty big spike sometimes between 2002 and 2009. When was that? 2003? Where did most of those numbers come from? DHS? Does federalizing airport security (so you can now be fondled before getting on a plane) count? And it doesn't come with hard numbers so you can figure out how much of the spike is private sector unemployment and how much is new regulatory hires?

That chart stinks.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 18, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Calling this "the regulatory burden" seems really misleading. That term is supposed to relate to the cost of doing business economy-wide, and as you say the measure is more related to decisions made regarding particular sectors.

(1980's deregulation was more about laws and regulations, I think, than number of regulatory employees - though that did drop under Reagan. Another very important thing the graph fails to capture.)

Posted by: Minivet | November 18, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

How much of the recent upsurge is merely because private employment has contracted? Federal employees don't get fired.

Posted by: theo2709 | November 18, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Back of the envelope says the jump in 2002-3 is on the order of 100,000 people, which would fit if DHS/TSA were considered regulatory.

But my goodness. This chart suggests that we have one person in a regulatory capacity per 400-500 private sector employees. That means the average private sector employee gets one minute a day worth of regulatory oversight applied to them. How can the economy possibly function?

Posted by: paul314 | November 18, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I second the notion from Minivet - calling this "regulatory burden" is misleading. Some regulators increase burdens, some decrease burdens ... and just looking at employment masks those and other important factors relevant to the true costs to private industry of compliance.

Posted by: sanjait | November 18, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

You will find a more extensive analysis of this subject at
http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/
The bottom line is that almost all of the increase over the last 10 years is the result of expanded Homeland Security programs.

Posted by: johntbennett1 | November 18, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

You will find a more extensive analysis of this subject at
http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/
The bottom line is that almost all of the increase over the last 10 years is the result of expanded Homeland Security programs.

Posted by: johntbennett1 | November 18, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Mike Konczal (Rortybomb) does a great job here. His graphs are worth reprinting, at:

http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/digging-into-the-changing-regulatory-state-of-the-past-10-years/

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | November 22, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

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