It's been an active first few weeks for President Donald Trump, and the new Administration's prompt engagement of the United States' vast regulatory state gives free marketeers a lot to cheer about. In particular, an executive order that would attrition out burdensome and unnecessary regulations deserves particular attention.
The executive order calls for agencies to pinpoint “at least two” current regulations to be repealed for each new proposed regulation. And it says the net incremental cost for fiscal 2017 should “be no greater than zero,” meaning the cost of new regulations should be offset by existing rules that will be rescinded.
House Speaker Paul Ryan applauded the order in a statement Monday afternoon, noting that it builds on House Republicans’ “Better Way” agenda and comes as the lower chamber is set to repeal a number of Obama era regulations this week.
“The explosion of federal regulations has hamstrung small business growth and crippled our economy,” he said. “President Trump’s executive order helps bring the nation’s regulatory regime into the 21st century by putting regulators on a budget, and addressing the costs agencies can impose each year.”
After the President's announcement, my colleague Mike McShane reminded me that, in fact, he has talked about precisely the same kind of regulatory reforms in the past. In his case, the context was education. From his US News and World Report piece from last year:
Our Tory compatriots across the pond offer a way forward. In 2010, the Conservative government of the United Kingdom implemented what they called "one in, one out" (later revised to "one in, two out") that required government to remove a regulation of equivalent compliance cost for every new regulation that they proposed. Want to require a new form to be submitted to the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills tracking how businesses recruit new employees? Lovely, not a bother at all. You simply must find another form that takes the same amount of effort or another requirement that takes the same amount of time and eliminate it.
But the regulatory push doesn't end there, of course. Newly inaugurated governor Eric Greitens has established his own regulatory beach head to fight from, and while it may not be "one in, two out" quite yet, it's reasonable to believe something similar is on the horizon. That regulatory freeze is important because it halts business as usual in the state bureaucracy and offers an opportunity for a clear-eyed reassessment of what the state is doing well, and doing wrong, in its rulemaking and regulatory processes.
Expect more about good-government regulatory reforms as this year's session proceeds, but it is refreshing to see that our state and federal governments may soon be getting smaller, one rule at a time.