Religion & Liberty Online

Ancient Israel had 613 Regulations; Modern America has Millions

rules-and-regulationsIn the Old Testament there are 613 commandments. Of those 248 are “positive commandments,” to perform an act, and 365 are “negative commandments,” to abstain from certain acts. Some of those include commandments that are deemed to be self-evident (“laws”), such as not to murder and not to steal. Others commemorate important events in Jewish history (“testimonies”) while the rest are simply decrees of God (“decrees”).

God deemed those 613 commandments to be enough to regulate almost every aspect of the lives of his people for thousands of years. You could read all of them in less than 30 minutes.

The American federal government, however, is not so succinct. There are over 1 million restrictions in the federal regulations alone (i.e., not counting the statutory law). Patrick McLaughlin calculated that it would take the average adult three years to read the whole thing.

In this video, McLaughlin provides a visual example of how much regulation has increased since the 1950s:

Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, is leading the movement to reduce this growing regulatory mess:

In March, King and Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) reintroduced legislation that would create an independent commission charged with weeding out unnecessary regulations. The Regulatory Improvement Act, as it’s called, is similar to steps King took as governor of Maine in the 1990s to streamline the regulatory process. The law would create a Regulatory Improvement Commission, which would provide Congress with a list of regulations to cut, similar to the way the Base Closure and Realignment Commission is used to identify military installations to eliminate.

The Regulatory Improvement Act did not make it past subcommittee hearings when King first introduced it in 2013, but King is optimistic that it will fare better this time around. He and Blount have added two new cosponsors this time around, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS).

He says the leadership of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has expressed “openness” to considering the issue, and there’s a companion bill circulating in the House that has the support of 14 members—7 Democrats and 7 Republicans.

Only 14 supporters? That’s outrageous. Every member of Congress should either support the Regulatory Improvement Act or offer their own regulation-reducing legislation. It’s high time Congress reigned in this regulatory leviathan. If Ancient Israel could survive on only 613 regulations, surely modern American can make it on fewer than a million.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).