The Regulation Singularity

Yesterday, I came home exhausted.  I have been working late nearly every night for weeks, at a time of year when most of my business is not even open yet (the business is seasonal).  I realized to my immense depression that I have been spending all my time on regulatory compliance.  I have not been pitching new clients or bidding on new prospects or making investments or improving our customer service processes -- though I have ideas for all of these.  I have been 100% dedicated through 14 hour days to just trying to keep up with and adapt to changing government rules.

Break rules, changing minimum wages, heat stress plans, mandatory sexual harassment training, OSHA reporting, EEO reporting, Census reporting, and most recently changing rules on salaried workers that Obama just waived his wand and imposed -- this is what has been consuming me.  I have been trying to roll out a new safety program to the field and can't do it because I keep having to train for one of these new requirements (one learns there is only a limited number of things one can simultaneously roll out to front-line staff).

At some point regulation will accrete so fast that it will be impossible to keep up.  I am going to call that the Regulation Singularity, and for businesses my size, we are fast approaching it.

Prominent libertarian think tanks often rank state business climate by their tax regimes.  I am all for low, sensibly-structured taxes.  But for most of my time, taxes are irrelevant.  We are shutting down businesses left and right in California and it has zero to do with taxes.


  1. Daublin:

    Clearly you should invest more in lobbyists.

    I wish I could believe that was 100% a joke.

  2. NL7:

    I'm pretty sure you could spend your whole work week doing compliance. At some point, you accept that it's unending, I guess.

  3. MNHawk:

    I think you've just wrote America's eulogy.

  4. gnyberg:

    Hire some folks to deal with the regulations, then some more to deal with the workplace issues and regulations related to those new employess, then a few more to.. well.. you get the idea.

  5. 3rdMoment:

    I wish everyone would read this post.

    I especially wish Republicans would read this post, since they are the natural constituency for this complaint, but as you say there is way too much emphasis on low taxes.

  6. 3rdMoment:

    I'd be very interested: what fraction of your time is spent on state/local vs federal regulatory issues?

  7. kidmugsy:

    Consider New Zealand?

  8. randian:

    Not only is Obama doing this crap, you have agencies like the EPA sua sponte expanding their jurisdiction, and the courts are letting them.

  9. Joyce:

    In addition, many of these compliance requests often come with filing fees. I am in a totally different business but every year new rules, mandates, paperwork etc are added and once added, they never disappear. I too am selling so that it becomes someone else's headache, probably a bigger organization with compliance staff. The American dream is fadinf, but not because opportunity isn't there, but because compliance is strangling it.

  10. sean2829:

    If you want to know what how the US will operate as it approaches the regulation singularity, look no further than Native American tribal lands. They've had 180 years of government supervision and are one of the poorest population groups in the country.

  11. mesocyclone:

    It is unfortunate. I suspect your business feels this more than almost all others. A lot of small operations, most in different jurisdictions, is a recipe for regulatory nightmares.

    However, there is no question that the regulatory red tape is more and more rapidly binding America. We are being tied down by millions of Lilliputian bureaucrats. History says that the singularity will be a long time in coming. Rather, without significant exogenous forcing, society will very slowly strangle, getting worse and worse for decades and decades. Then it will collapse, a very messy time for all involved.

  12. Dave Boz:

    "Hire some folks to deal with the regulations, then some more to deal with the workplace issues and regulations related to those new employess, then a few more to..."
    Maybe a joke to you, but this is seriously how a lot of folks think "Full Employment" will come about. Nobody has to produce anything, we all just make our living managing somebody else's behavior.
    It is the California Dream. Good Jobs at Good Wages.

  13. Mercury:

    This weekend I heard a great story on NPR about Philip K. Howard's TED Talk about how the rule of law in the US is going completely off the rails as evidenced by just the kinds of things that Warren is complaining about here:

    Here’s the actual TED talk:

    Excerpts: ..."we are increasingly moving towards this almost rule-based fetish about law where it's not a question of what's right and wrong anymore, it's a question of did you comply. And if you didn't comply - throw the book at them."

    "...recently the lifelong employee of the D.C. parks department had a heart attack in front of a fire station. The firemen watched and didn't help them out because the rules said you're supposed to call 911. So someone called 911 and the ambulance happened to go to the wrong quadrant of the District of Columbia and the man died. They were following the rules."

    Well worth the half hour or so to listen to both. I would like to point than neither NPR nor TED are exactly bastions of libertarian or right-wing propaganda so you might actually get your "progressive" friends to click on the links.

  14. macghil:

    My husband, a small business owner in AZ, feels your pain. He's about to hang it up.

    "Prosperity depends entirely upon a minority being allowed to function.
    We do not mean a class, but a certain type of mind. It exists in
    various degrees and forms-business men and farmers and foremen and
    housewives, the people who always somehow get things done, get some
    practicable result from whatever material is at hand and whatever other
    people they must work with. They are self-starters. And they are
    seldom conspicuous.

    The self-starters are never college professors nor politicians. Neither
    do we mean inventors, intellectuals, artists or writers-the creative
    artist is naturally anti-social. The self-starters, of course, use what
    more original minds discover, and their particular function is to hold
    everything together. One can't always see how they do it...

    In an effort to regulate everything those people may be easily
    eliminated. They have been very nearly exterminated in Russia.
    Bureaucracy smothers them. And the set-up goes with them."

    --Isabel Paterson