For reasons I don't entirely understand the impression that the present regrettable economic circumstances have been caused by a hands-off, laissez-faire approach to regulation seems to be widely held. This is curious since, as Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com, puts it in today's Wall Street Journal, we have not been living in an age of regulatory roll-back. On the contrary, there has been a marvellous, winning combination of more and useless regulation.
If spending under Mr. Bush was a disaster, regulation was even worse. The number of pages in the Federal Registry is a rough proxy for the swollen expanse of the regulatory state. In 2001, some 64,438 pages of regulations were added to it. In 2007, more than 78,000 new pages were added. Worse still, argues the Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy, Mr. Bush is the unparalleled master of "economically significant regulations" that cost the economy more than $100 million a year. Since 2001, he jacked that number by more than 70%. Since June 2008 alone, he introduced more than 100 economically significant regulations.