Regulatory overload is more than just an administrative headache. It is a significant drag on a company's ability to grow. According to George Mason's Mercatus Center, less regulated industries grow twice as fast as those that are heavily regulated. For many fast growing companies like Uber, Alibaba, Etsy, or Lyft, the biggest threat to their expansion isn't their competitors; it's the regulators forcing them to jump over increasingly higher compliance hurdles.
It isn't just businesses buckling under the weight of regulation either. A recent Boston Consulting Group study found that colleges were accountable to 18 different federal agencies and more than 200 federal laws and guidelines. It also found that faculty and staff at the respective schools were spending anywhere from 4 to 15 percent of their time complying with federal regulations — time that could presumably be better spent teaching tomorrow's Nobel Prize winner or researching the next big medical breakthrough.
I'm a Weill Cornell Medicine board member and I recently learned that it could soon be subjected to a multi-million dollar compliance mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) governing the handling of unidentified patient tissue. This tissue — which would otherwise be thrown away — is immensely valuable to researchers.
But the new HHS rule imposes onerous new requirements for doctors and researchers to obtain, store and track patient consent for every single tissue sample, and to renew that consent every 10 years. According to Laurie Gilmer, Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine, "This rule may be a well-intended attempt to enhance patient privacy. But these tissue samples are already completely anonymous. The real world impact of this rule will be unnecessary costs for academic medical centers and fewer tissue samples available for potentially life-saving research."
Successive presidents and Congress certainly didn't intend for the regulatory system to expand this way. But it has and the result, according to another George Mason study, is that "people find it harder to identify or recall all the rules they are supposed to follow. They are more likely to make mistakes and are often less motivated to comply."