The lawyer and legal reform advocate Philip Howard has an essay on regulatory reform that is excerpted in the Wall Street Journal and that is worth a look. He's very good at describing the problem:
Earlier this year, the Colorado Department of Human Services propsed new rules for day-care centers. Government oversight of day-care seems like a good idea—you wouldn't want children cooped up in an airless basement—but this proposal went far beyond basic health and safety. The new rules would dictate exactly how to do just about everything: how many block sets ("at least two (2) ... with a minimum of ten (10) blocks per set"), where the children can play with the blocks (on "a flat building surface" that is "not in the main traffic area") and when caregivers must wash their hands (before "eating food," "after wiping a child's nose," etc.).
This is the way regulation works in America: Regulators try to imagine every possible mistake and then dictate a solution. The complexity is astounding. Under a recent federal directive, the number of health-care reimbursement categories will soon increase from 18,000 to 140,000, including 21 separate categories for "spacecraft accidents" and 12 for bee stings. There are over 140 million words of binding federal statutes and regulations, and states and municipalities add several billion more.