From the essay Computer Productivity: Why it is Important that Software Projects Fail by Dr. Anthony Berglas:
The boundless creativity of politicians and bureaucrats to develop new and more complex regulation is bounded only by the bureaucracy’s inability to implement them.
Considering the 2008 Federal Register is 80,700 pages, and that it grows every year, it’s safe to say that there appears to be no upper limit to scope of the problem.
Incredibly, the Federal government actually believes that people should, or could, read the Federal Register. It even answers the question, “Why should I read the Federal Register?”. The only real reason should be to cure insomnia.
Metrics on reading the Federal Register
Let’s presume you had to read the Federal Register, taking the following assumptions:
- The document, as of its final 2008 version, is 80,700 pages.
- You sleep eight hours a day.
- You have a full-time job, five days a week, eight hours a day.
- You commute to/from work for an average of one hour each day.
- You spend two hours a day for personal and domestic matters – bathing, eating, housekeeping, etc..
- You spend four hours on each weekend day to address random matters (paying bills, playing WoW, etc.).
- While reading, you take a 15-minute break every two hours.
Considering that, you have about 39 hours per week to read. If you can read two pages per minute (a good clip that assumes comprehension rates don’t matter), it would take you nearly 121 days (17 weeks) to read all 80,700 pages of the Federal Register.
Keep in mind that such a clip requires reading on average 5 1/2 hours per day. In reality, the average American spends just 21 minutes a day reading. At that rate, the average American would take nearly 2,000 days (about five and one-half years) to read the 2008 Federal Register.
To make matters worse, the Federal Register continues to grow, at a pace of about 1.5% per year (Federal Register Pages Published Annually, PDF). That means an extra month of reading each year for Joe Sixpack if he wants to read all the applicable laws in 2013 after spending more than five years reading the 2008 Federal Register.
In closing: To understand the laws of America, start reading now, and don’t plan on stopping for over five and one-half years. Then, expect to spend a month of reading each year just to catch up.
Of course, this doesn’t include the state or local laws where you live… but that’s a whole other matter.