`

Hidden Costs

New regulations have real consequences for individual citizens and businesses, and their stories deserve to be heard.  Our “Hidden Costs” map brings these stories to light.

Regulations are typically created in response to public tragedy or loss. For example, a fatal factory or traffic accident triggers fear and worry. An anxious public demands swift action from policy makers to prevent similar situations from happening again. In response, new seatbelt laws or fire safety requirements are enacted with the intention of protecting citizens and preventing future disasters.

Every rule has direct costs- like extra paperwork, time, employee training, or facility upgrades. When crafting rules, regulators make best-guess efforts in weighing the direct costs against potential benefits in improved safety and health. However, the indirect costs - lost jobs, revenue, or a decision not to invest in a business due to regulatory uncertainty- are virtually impossible to fully capture or anticipate in advance. These indirect costs- and the people they impact- usually go unheard and unseen by regulators and the public.

Consider licensing laws, usually created to keep consumers safe by requiring different professions to undertake lengthy and expensive training requirements.  While licensing laws appear practical for public safety, some are unreasonably cumbersome. For example, one study finds the average cosmetologist spends 372 days in training; the average EMT only 33. This hefty time investment discourages people from starting or expanding their business.

We created a regulatory impact map to bring the human face of hidden regulatory costs to light. Our stories are a mix of media reported incidents and first-hand accounts of regulation submitted by individuals and businesses. While we review these for basic accuracy, we don’t censure based on whether we agree with the cited regulation. Our purpose is to simply illustrate the indirect costs of regulation and let site visitors judge the outcomes for themselves.