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Megan McArdle

One Regulation Is Painless. A Million of Them Hurt.

Compliance is estimated to have cost the nation $4 trillion in GDP growth since 1977.
Wish you were here ... doing paperwork.

Wish you were here ... doing paperwork.

Photographer: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

“In one year,” wrote Warren Meyer in 2015, “I literally spent more personal time on compliance with a single regulatory issue -- implementing increasingly detailed and draconian procedures so I could prove to the State of California that my employees were not working over their 30-minute lunch breaks -- than I did thinking about expanding the business or getting new contracts.”

Meyer is the owner of a company that runs campgrounds and other recreational facilities on public lands under contract from the government. It doesn’t seem like regulatory compliance should be eating up so much of his time; he is not producing toxic chemicals, operating a nuclear facility, or engaged in risky financial transactions that might have the side effect of sending our economy into a tailspin. He’s just renting people places to pitch a tent or park an RV, or selling them sundries. Nonetheless, the government keeps piling on the micromanagement lest some employee, somewhere, miss a lunch break.