Which is a shame, because I'm guessing a lot of work went into it.
The Mercatus Center at GMU has released REGDATA, which allows you to compare the number of binding regulationsby industry from 1997 to 2010. I've scanne the working paper, the code book, and some of the files, and it looks like they've searched for standard regulatory language "shall"/"must", etc. in the CFR and alotted them by industry.
Quantifying regulations is obviously a worthwhile goal, but I would have thought one of the primary facts of regulatory economics is that different sorts of regulations have different results. I don't understand why adding up how many times an industry "shall" do something tells you anything.
"Bus companies shall put a yellow line near the front of the bus and a sign that tells everyone that federal law prohibits people from stepping across the yellow line" [for non-Americans, this is a weirdly emphatic, micromanaging, and highly visible regulation that's often puzzling to American bus riders]
is massively different from:
"All buses shall only use biofuels derived from hemp and recycled tie-dye t-shirts"
It's a little nanny-statish but you could see how the first one would have negligible or maybe even small positive value (there are some plausible negative externalities on you from a fellow bus-rider running up past that yellow line and yelling at the driver). The second regulation would have a large negative welfare impact.
These are goofy examples, but the point is regulations range from highly damaging to completely benign to highly beneficial.
I've seen this sort of thing done less formally in blog comment threads a lot, when people list the number of pages of federal regulations to prove what an awful country we live in. I've never understood why people think that means anything. I don't think formalizing it in a database improves the argument for this sort of data at all.
I think research on industrial regulation should probably take a page from labor economists working on labor market policy. Look at the policies and regulations one at a time. Don't think you can add up how many policies there are and that that tells you anything at all.
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