Ranking states by their degree of regulation

Now Mercatus has completed an analysis of state-level regulation. State RegData 1.0 analyzes the administrative codes of 46 states plus the District of Columbia, and the results are informative. The average state has 131,000 restrictive terms and about 9 million words in its code, which would require roughly twelve work weeks to read at a normal reading pace.

But there is huge variation. The least regulated state is South Dakota, with about 44,000 regulatory restrictions, while the most regulated state is California, with 395,000. All told, the least regulated states are South Dakota, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota, while the most regulated states are California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to include Vermont, New Jersey, Arkansas, and Hawaii. Arkansas is the easiest to explain: It has no administrative code, at least not yet. Its state agencies produce regulations, but until this year no one had ever bothered to compile them in one place. Fortunately — perhaps partly in response to RegData — legislation was passed this year to create an official Code of Arkansas Rules by January 2023, so Arkansas’s regulatory landscape will eventually come to light.

That is from James Broughel and Patrick A. McLaughlin, there is more at the link.

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Coastal California has a real aversion to change and externalities. And because the climate is so nice, it can still generate lots of wealth despite tons of regulations via Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the like.

The actual regulations matter too. California famously voids worker non-competes. No point in skilling up as a techie if you sign away your hard-earned knowledge upon employment.

This is a unique perspective. I'm interested to learn how this moves forward.

Thanks for this perspective. I'm curious to know how things evolve.

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In California, everybody wants the state to remain exactly the way it was on the day he arrived.

This is known as Progressivism.

otoh
california has currently criminalized
both zem pronouns and zer freelance journalizm

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“Every man who moves here wishes he was the last invader” Henry Miller on Big Sur. Basically sums up the mentality in coastal CA.

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"In California, everybody wants the state to remain exactly the way it was on the day he arrived."

Heavily polluted air?

That's why California has so many, and increasing, laws and regulations restricting burning fossil fuels? Higher CAFE standards. Zero emissions mandates?

While California air quality is much improved since 1970, air pollution exceeds limits from vehicles regularly and causes significant health problems.

Very few want that to stay the same.

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Your argument is that California continues to be more dynamic, innovative, and desirable a place to live than North Dakota because of its climate. Ok, there are plenty of deregulated places with California's climate for you to start your libertarian Utopia. Try the coast of Western Sahara.

Isn’t tech and entertainment employment leaving California for Canada? I don’t buy the story of California as a shining city on the hill. For one, it has the highest poverty rates in the nation once you factor in the cost of housing. So far as I can tell, the only things that progressives in flyover country can learn from California is that it makes sense to invest in your higher ed system (but Texas and NC and just about everyone knows that and started imitating the UC system decades ago), and that enforcing non-compete agreements is a bad for tech employment (Colorado and some other states have copied this already, but this is less widely imitated than the UC system). Other than that, I don’t see what California has to teach, say, Minneapolis or BC, which are also quite progressive places.

Isn’t tech and entertainment employment leaving California for Canada?

Yes, very much like babies leave the maternity ward in a hospital.

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My point is "Businesses leaving California for North Dakota (or insert any other state, esp. AZ or TX)" have been running for decades now. If this represented some type of change in economics due to CA becoming too tax or regulatory heavy, at what point does CA become the state with no businesses and the other states move out from 'up and coming'?

It's pretty clear businesses leave areas of intense economic growth because its hard to fight for room when you have other top notch businesses elbowing in as much as they can. These areas are creating lots of businesses and the ones that do not make it into the top try to preserve themselves by moving to B-tier areas where lower costs may offset their lower revenue.

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When conservatives say "less regulation" they mean "fewer regulations that I dislike and stronger enforcement of the ones I do like." Draconian punishment of petty theft, to dissuade the riffraff from trying to get into my gated community, but only a token 1% enforcement rate on financial fraud--after all how am I gonna afford to get the home in the gated community to begin with?

Ending "draconian punishment of petty theft" is how you get six rent-a-cops all day long at the Whole Foods store in Venice, California.

It's how a "scamster" (per a Superior Court judge) can avoid paying rent for 15 years or more, driving small landlords out of business; can rack up dozens of small claims judgments that never will be paid; and can do resets in multiple bankruptcies while claiming poverty and driving up the cost of everything for people who play by the rules.

You don't have to be a conservative or live in a gated community to resent the one-person crime waves that are fostered by deliberately casual law enforcement.

"Ending "draconian punishment of petty theft" is how you get six rent-a-cops all day long at the Whole Foods store in Venice, California.

My personal favorite is finding that they lock up the socks and underwear at the Walmarts in CA.

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So the least regulated states have some of the fewest people, the most regulated states have some of the most.

Less random encounters with neighbors yields less pressure, like gas molecules. Less conflicts, lesser demand for regulation.

It's a problem for people in less populated parts of California: you get stuck with the same regulations that are intended to solve the problems stemming from 10 million people being crowded into Los Angeles County, but you don't have the same level of crowding so you can afford more externalities.

Upstate New York has a similar situation.

Is this the case? I just know the building regulations (i.e. seismic-proof) and they account for local variations? What regulations are homogeneous on the whole state? Noise, speed limits, alcohol, gambling?

No, it's not true. The Air Quality Management District map is a good example.

https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/drdb/dismap.htm

It is true. Consider the gasoline prices or auto registration taxes. We pay almost double the National averages due to unique fuel mixture requirements and gasoline taxes, designed for urban smog and infrastructure. Rural areas pay significantly more for fuel since they drive further. If you go to rural counties near the Nevada border, most of the cars have Nevada plates, and there are very few gas stations. Most people drive into Nevada for fuel and propane, making CA gas stations uncompetitive. Rural areas in the interior do not have this advantage.

I didn't say all regulations were divided by Air Quality Management District, but certainly some are. For example:

Recognition of the uniqueness of the San Joaquin Valley – The Valley’s meteorology, topography and economy differ significantly from those in other jurisdictions. Although it is valuable to review and evaluate efforts of other agencies, we must consistently look for solutions that fully consider the Valley’s unique needs.

link

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And yet that would just add to the regulation. If CA wrote a carve out for gas stations near the Nevada border, on the assumption almost everyone will just go to Nevada anyway, that would add words to the regulations.

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Even within LA County, you could be living in the Palmdale high desert area and still be subject to regulations designed for metro LA.

That's just the weird history of California's very large counties.

The average state has 62 counties, California for all its size and population has 58.

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Relevance though? Seismic-proofing tall building regulations apply to both urban and rural parts of California. Do people build skyscrappers where there are few people? If not, the fact that the regulations apply don't really matter.

I suppose the galactic federation's 10,000 pages of regulations on warp drives applies to all of us on earth as well.

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Will Wilkinson has made some good arguments that it is all about population density.

The Density Divide: Urbanization, Polarization, and Populist Backlash

If I understand the difference between Mercatus and Niskanen correctly, the latter becomes "post-libertarian" in the way they process these data.

i.e. the revealed preferences of dense urban areas are valid.

If that’s true it’s a great argument for pushing things down to a local level.

Let SF be SF and the San Joaquin valley be the valley.

Do you think they are not?

There are tremendous political divisions between Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Bernardino. Or between San Francisco and Fresno.

If it was not clear, I specifically mean policy and regulation.

Huh?

I know conservatives love to hate San Francisco and Santa Monica city regulations, but do they really not understand that they are city regulations? They are shaped by the urban climate, and of course "flocking." People with similar values flock to those places.

There are considerable political and regulatory differences between Santa Monica and, say, Dana Point.

California State regulations are left of median, but they aren't usually the headline grabbers.

I’m not a conservative.

I don’t have any feelings about SF or Santa Monica regulations one way or the other.

Tautologically, with 395,000 state level restrictions, there are 395,000 restrictions that a state government has chosen to enforce state-wide.

I’m saying many/most of these could and should be pushed to the county level. The exception would be things like pollution that isn’t locally contained or fishing restrictions to protect fish stocks.

But possibly not binding everywhere. Those California State regulations created the 35 Air Quality Management Districts mentioned above.

It would be interesting to know if AQMD regs were totalled, or viewed as the applicable stack for one location.

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You aren’t a conservative? You are if anonymous says so

A careful reader would note that I refer to a pattern and not an individual.

It occurred to me during my hike that an Orange County friend referred to it as The People's Republic of Santa Monica.

Such differences are ancient.

Aside from lobbing bombs in the culture war you ignored the point entirely.

If your link is correct, there’s a great opportunity for pushing federal and state regulations down to lower levels.

Let a thousand flowers bloom. Utility increases across the board. California for Californians, SF for SF-oans.

Hasn't your entire effort today been to say that people *should* get what they want?

But aren't sites like these more concerned with blocking liberalz in cities from achieving that dream? Whether we are talking Senate Representation or mismatches between Presidential wins and the popular vote, modern conservatives are very much concerned with blocking urban majorities from getting what they want.

Perhaps if you are not a conservative you will agree this is an anti-democratic stacking of the deck.

I can't remember, did you approve of California's stricter emissions standards?

You’re obviously intoxicated.

California should absolutely defend their right to impose regulations !! But they should defer to local governments when able.

You’re putting words in my mouth. I totally support local governments outlawing X and Y.

It’s their choice, and should be honored.

Good for you!

But if you have been at MR for any time at all, you certainly know hating on California for their local choices is a regular pastime.

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Are the numbers numerically comparable? A each regulation the same size? my experience says, no. And I wonder how much the less populated states are free-loading on regulations published by the more populated ones?

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Seems highly correlated with population size. Perhaps this is being driven by the same thing that caused any large organization to have more bureaucracy and rules than a smaller organization.

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What is the coefficient of the log-regression between population and regulation size? Interactions between people grow in N^2, so a coefficient much lower than 2 is quite good. It would be nice to see outliers against the regression.

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Is it bad form at this blog to point out that the states with the most regulations also have the greatest economic output and prosperity. Do all those regulations help promote prosperity or are they in response to prosperity? Texas seems an outlier: it has the reputation of being an unregulated state (at least when it comes to housing). Is it because of oil and gas?

Don't always believe reputation. In the finance business, Texas is known for being highly, but fairly, regulated.

Did you think this was a blog centered on fair regulation?

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I'd imagine that the states with the most diverse habitats, natural resources, economies, etc. are likely to have the most regulations. Aren't those boundaries what drive the needs for rules?

Landlocked states have fewer coastal disputes to settle in law.

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Not always particularly well. For instance, the regs around rate caps are unnecessarily complex, and those around payday lending manage to be complex, dumb, and easily circumvented or perverted as to intent. Not that I'd trade them for anything coming out of California...

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State regulations are one thing, the many and varying codes enforced by cities are another. They're usually even more onerous.

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"Arkansas’s regulatory landscape will eventually come to light." Only if those charged with the duty don't all get bumped off.

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It is clear from this that while Democrats draft rules and regulations to benefit the 99%, Republicans only regulate to punish brown people and enrich the 1%.

#ImpeachTheRussianAsset

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Bigger states have larger regulatory agencies who push for additional regulations. You might learn something by comparing the differences in regulatory count of states of comparable size, but I doubt you'll learn much without some kind of common metric better than being a state.

Furthermore, you probably need to examine the size of the actual regulations versus the count. A one sentence regulation is likely to be vastly different than a 4 page regulation.

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Sorry, but this id s nonsensical piece of pseudo-analysis. What do the "bad" states of California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Ohio all have in common? They have huge populations. Even the smallest one, Ohio, ranks 7th in population size.

What do the "good" states of South Dakota, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota all have in common? They are tiny. Even the largest, Idaho, is 40th among the states. The five "good" states have less than 5% of the population of the five "bad" states.

There is almost nothing to be learned about these states' regulatory issues without first taking their comparative size into consideration.

You took their comparative size into consideration and I learned something.

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Good comment. I'd that the scale and variety of the economy yields a wide variety of circumstances that justify a wider variety, and as a consequence, number of regulations. Also, just to note, the qualitative considerations of regulations are important when engaging in this regulations discussion, but a fine toothed comb analysis of 300K or millions across all states is not possible, especially in a comments thread. All this isn't to excuse a California or NY--or any state--from issuing trivially stupid regulation. That's yet another discussion.

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I'd [suggest/say] that...

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Now Mercatus has completed an analysis of state-level regulation. State RegData 1.0 analyzes the administrative codes of 46 states plus the District of Columbia, and the results are informative. The average state has 131,000 restrictive terms and about 9 million words in its code, which would require roughly twelve work weeks to read at a normal reading pace.

This doesn't seem like a very good way to measure things anymore. Do you evaluate software based on its lines of code? Can you even find out how much code is behind the latest Windows or Excel? Who cares how long to read the whole thing? No one reads all the code, why would they?

And does code facilitate or inhibit? Excel's code would be a lot smaller if you got rid of pivot tables. But Excel would become a fraction of what it is now.

I could wipe out millions of words of code tomorrow. Abolish corporations and mandate only partnerships and sole proprietorship. Wait that would gut economic development and set economies back centuries.

So that means some of those millions of words causes economic growth. So which words are helpful and which aren't? The question seems harder now.

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