President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the age of Big Government in 1933 with his New Deal program and since then Washington, DC soon became the seat of federal power with huge buildings filled with an army of bureaucrats that tried, but failed, to regulate America out of the Great Depression. The main issue is that the American people were not informed about it, in fact they were pretty ignorant as to what was really happening. Legislation began to stream from the Halls of Congress, too many which were unknown to American citizens. Someone or a group of folks in the government got the idea that the rules were to be written down and published. In march of 1936, 70 years ago this week, the government issued the first pages of the Federal Register, which began the process of informing Americans the new ways in which their government affect their lives. This all occurred much to the chagrin of President FDR.
In 1946, the Administrative Procedure Act was passed which gave the Federal Register a new and important job, which accepted comments from the public. This important step provided information to Federal agencies and incorporated into their decisions. The Federal Register is, and has been, useful, but it also made possible such things as consumer advocacy, lobbyists, and regulatory lawyers. In 1936 the Federal Register was 2,355 pages. In 2005 it has grown to be 77,752 pages. It would take two people to read each page for four minutes one year to read it all. And the major problem is that the government now writes rules faster than any person or group of persons can read them.
The Federal Register is not just pages of rules, but one can use it to show that every year individual liberty is reduced. It provides ordinary Americans, like you and I, to at least try to comprehend what the government is up to. According to a report sponsored by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University (Alastair Walling):
compliance with government regulations costs this country $1.1 trillion in 2005.
This equates to the cost of $3,660 for each American citizen. We should be thankful for the Federal Register, as difficult as it may be to wade through the reading material; but imagine if we didn’t know what the government was up to – we could be breaking a law without even knowing it. We would also not be able to fight the growing government as easily either.
You can view the Federal Register (1994 to present) on the Internet – which is another accolade for the cyberspace entity.
Also see the GPO home page, where the Government Printing Office is located on the Internet.
American voters should train themselves to be competent and knowledgeable, and maybe, just maybe, we can start putting folks in office that are just as knowledgeable, and importantly in tune with how a republic should operate.