Deregulation? The Federal Register’s size

Following up on my post entitled “When was the financial sector deregulated?”

register1991Another crude measure of regulation or deregulation is to count the number of pages in the U.S. Federal Register. The Federal Register is the government’s daily publication of new and proposed rules. Some of the rules are trivial and some have large impact; some are proposed and some are final; some are clarifications and some are new. But cumulatively the Register‘s increasing or decreasing bulk tells us something about regulatory trends.

For the last generation, here are the Federal Register‘s total page counts for selected years:

1980s: 52,992 pages per year average.
1990s: 62,237 pages per year average.
2005: 73,870 pages.
2010: 81,405 pages.

(Side note: This year alone, the Register has published about 590 items related to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.)

Question: Does anyone know of a Register page count by economic sector? For example, have number of pages devoted to regulating the Finance and Banking sector increased or decreased over that time?

Of course, page-measurement is a very crude indicator. It doesn’t tell us whether particular rules were good or bad, and it doesn’t tell us whether the overall effect of the rules was positive or negative. So we also have to discuss at least two other follow-up pro-regulation arguments:

1. “Magic Bullet” explanations of the financial crisis: Yes, government regulation increased overall–but if only government regulators hadn’t altered Regulation #355,017, the financial crisis would have been avoided. Or: If only the regulators had also enacted Regulation #4,854,229, the crisis wouldn’t have happened.

2. “Relative-Size Inadequacy” arguments: Yes, regulation increased, but the size of the financial sector increased at a higher rate, so under-regulation was the cause of the crisis.

And the deeper, underlying pro-regulation argument that:

3. Left to themselves, financial markets are predatory and incapable of self-regulation, so top-down government regulation is necessary.

Clyde Wayne Crews. Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State. Cato Institute, 2002.
Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr. Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State. Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2006.
The 2010 page count: Politifact Virginia.
Federal Register: The Daily Journal of the United States Government.

Related: My essay, “Defending Shylock: Productive Work in Financial Markets.”
What is the US economy? Introduction.

Defending Shylock

defending-shylock-cover-100 My essay, “Defending Shylock: Productive Work in Financial Markets,” is now available in pamphlet form at Amazon. The essay is also available for free at the Social Science Research Network.

In this essay I discuss the great value that financial markets add to an economy and the nature of the intellectual work that underlays them. In addition, I argue against the usual criticisms of financial markets that those who work in them are zero-sum parasites upon the physical labor and that they make merely “paper profits.”

shylock-153x100Along the way, I discuss controversial figures such as Martha Stewart, Michael Milken, Aristotle Onassis, Ivan Boesky, Jesus, Augustus, and Shakespeare’s character Shylock from The Merchant of Venice.

Defending Shylock

A formal publication of my “Defending Shylock: Productive Work in Financial Markets” is forthcoming this spring. For now, here is a draft version [pdf] of the sixteen-page essay.

From the Introduction:

shylocks-153x100“Ambivalent attitudes about financial markets are as old as financial markets themselves. Plato, in The Republic (555e), condemns moneylenders. Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple, on the grounds that they were defiling a holy place. Roman emperor Augustus, according to Suetonius’ racy biography, was always especially displeased if he discovered any of his knights engaged in interest rate arbitrage (Suetonius, p. 76). Shakespeare, in Hamlet, has Polonius counsel his son ‘neither a lender nor a borrower be,’ and in The Merchant of Venice presents us with the image of the lender as a cunning Shylock hoping to extract his pound of flesh.
“We are, in the twenty-first century, heir to all these views.
“At same time we are committed to financial markets. … ”

From the Conclusion:

chrysler-100x126“… Judged by these criteria, financial markets are highly virtuous institutions. Obviously this is not to say that everyone who works in financial markets is a moral hero or that mistakes and abuses never happen. But it is to say that injustices are aberrations in the system and that the system is designed to help us be that best we can be. Financial markets do create value, and they do so by encouraging in us the core of moral excellence. We cannot ask more of any institution.”

Comments or corrections very welcome before the formal publication.