The practice of creating independent regulatory commissions, who perform administrative work in addition to judicial work, threatens to develop a “fourth branch” of the Government for which there is no sanction in the Constitution.
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

How did we get here? The rise of the regulatory state.

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Mankind was once subject to the whim of kings. The United States was one of the first governments in history to enact a system of dignity, freedom, and equality under the law. Unfortunately, deference to technocratic state-employees as the "experts" to solve our problems and protect us from harm gradually led us to surrender those freedoms. American government now has millions of rules and virtually unlimited power to enforce them against us.  


How the fourth branch took over washington dc

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In the 1800's, Washington DC was fourth-rate swampy ghost town occupied for only part of the year.  Today, it contains highest concentration of wealth and power in America. The reason? The federal government used to control limited resources, but with the rise of regulations and their power to make or break businesses, DC is now the central depot for dispensing government goodies. Learn how DC became the top destination for crony capitalists.




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The government is so worried about our safety, they have created a rule book that would take three years of full-time reading to comprehend. Thanks for making sure we know how to live our lives, Uncle Sam! Learn about the book that governs every corner of our lives: from what we eat to how we manage our businesses. And if didn't know already, you are probably already in violation of at least ten rules.



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There are over 70 executive branch agencies (overseen by the President) and independent regulatory agencies (not overseen by anyone) with roughly 350,000 employees writing and enforcing rules. There are also state and municipal level agencies with about as many people doing the same thing. Learn about how these organizations operate and what motivates them to do what they do.



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Creating a new regulation is a long and arduous process that can take years for an agency to complete. Unmaking or updating them is just about as difficult!  Learn about how the rules are made, why the process is universally considered too slow, and how special interests can sneak into rule-making discussions.


Who regulates the regulators?

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Since the 1970's, Congress and the President have been trying to reign in regulatory growth with little impact. Learn about the influence that Congress, the President, and the judiciary have over regulatory action...and lack thereof.



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While the complex nexus of regulatory agencies and rules are intended to protect vulnerable Americans, they often have exactly the opposite effect. Learn about how regulations burden the poor by making it ridiculously expensive to start a businesses and driving up consumer prices. 



Additional Resources

Non-Profit Organizations that Defend Citizens Against regulatory overreach

These not for profit entities will defend citizens for free in cases where regulations have been applied inappropriately or violate constitutional rights. Explore their active cases to learn more about how regulatory power can adversely impact individuals and businesses.

Our Favorite books

These books provide excellent overviews of the evolution of the regulatory system, and why American citizens should be alarmed at the growth in unaccountable regulatory branch powers. 

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"By the People" by Charles Murray
A must-read overview of the evolution of the regulatory state, and a unique proposal for how citizens can push back against regulatory overgrowth.



 "The Death of Common Sense" by Philip K. Howard
A quick read explaining how mindless bureaucracy has replaced common sense in the writing and enforcement of rules.


"The Rule of Nobody" by Philip K. Howard
Philip K. Howard lays out his take on the evolution of the regulatory state, and the consequences of not taking action.


"Three Felonies a Day" by Harvey Silvergrlate
Explains how the regulatory state has dramatically increased the number of federal crimes on the books, with the frightening result is that federal prosecutors can accuse almost anyone of violating the law.


"Go Directly to Jail" by Gene Healy
Similar to "Three Felonies a Day" but offers additional case studies of ethically innocent individuals who are caught "not complying" with complex and obscure federal regulatory branch rules.


Simple Rules for a Complex World by Richard Epstein
The philosophical argument for why common law, which focuses on broad rules and incentives, does a better job that millions of proscriptive regulations in optimizing societal welfare. A dense read but helpful for understanding the concept of common law, a tradition dating back thousands of years to the Roman Republic and a cornerstone of the founding father's drafting of the Constitution.


helpful articles

Expert commentary providing context on the evolution, current state, and costs of the regulatory system. Includes analysis on how organizational incentives drive regulatory agency behavior.

Understanding regulatory reform

Experts explore how different reforms might improve the regulatory branch.