Will Trump's Authoritarian Impulses Derail His Deregulatory Successes?

Tariffs, threats to use antitrust regulations against big tech firms, and an interest in social media regulation could overshadow one of the adminstration's big victories


The only thing that's likely to stop President Donald Trump's deregulatory push is Trump himself.

Trump has presided over two years of near-record low growth in the size of the federal regulatory state, and his administration has hacked away at both the total number and the annual cost of federal regulations, rules, and so-called "regulatory dark matter" like regulatory guidance letters and notices. According to an annual report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute assessing the size and cost of federal regulations, released Tuesday, Trump has delayed or withdrawn more than 1,500 Obama-era rules that were in the pipeline, and has kept his promise to repeal two rules for every new one passed.

But there are warning signs that progress might be slowing, says Clyde Wayne Crews, CEI's vice president of policy and the author of the annual "Ten Thousand Commandments" report.

"Despite the progress made on regulatory reform under President Trump, American consumers and businesses are still on the hook for the 'hidden tax' of federal regulation," said Crews in a statement. "And that progress is further threatened by President Trump's own regulatory impulses on issues ranging from antitrust enforcement to trade restrictions to food and drug matters, and more."

Those impulses have driven the president to impose numerous restrictions on foreign trade, including tariffs that are costing the U.S. economy an estimated $1.4 billion each month. This week, he made news by threatening to hit American businesses and consumers with a new round of import taxes on goods from China.

Elsewhere, Trump has threatened to use antitrust laws to go after successful businesses like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. He's overseen the creation of a new "technology task force" at the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize mergers and has criticized the corporate alliance between Comcast and NBC. Trump has also suggested regulating Facebook and other social media platforms—something that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is all too eager for—and has floated the idea of nationalizing the rollout of 5G telecommunications technology, instead of letting mobile internet providers handle it.

On all those fronts, the CEI report warns, Trump may be undoing his own deregulatory success by growing the size of the federal government and inflating its power to interfere in the affairs of private businesses.

"Trump's own regulatory impulses are a concern, particularly where he demonstrates prominent public agreement with regulatory advocates on issues such as antitrust and regulatory action against tech firms and traditional media companies," writes Crews.

Still, the overall regulatory slowdown is impressive. According to the numbers compiled by Crews, the Trump administration issued 3,368 rules during 2018—just slightly more than the 3,281 rules issued in 2017, the year that set the record for the fewest new regulations approved since 1976 (when the National Archives began counting federal rules).

One of the most blunt ways to estimate the size of the federal regulatory state in a given year is to count up the pages of the Federal Register, that behemoth of a book that annually tracks the growth of the federal leviathan. For 2018, the Trump administration piled up 68,082 pages. That's up from a mere 61,308 pages in 2017, but still well below the levels set by George W. Bush's and Barack Obama's administrations, which regularly clocked in at 75,000 to 95,000 pages.

Even with Trump's rollback, Crews estimates that the sum total of all federal regulations is a $1.9 trillion "hidden tax" on Americans. That's a larger total than all personal and corporate income taxes combined, and works out to a $14,600 burden on every household in the country.

So, yes, Trump's promise to hold the line on federal regulation seems to be paying off, even if the regulatory state is still massive—and massively expensive.

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  1. It takes a special breed of stupid to think that breaking up facebook and google would somehow undo or outweight the good that has been accomplished by freeing hundreds of billions worth of productive areas of the economy from regulation. But reason is unsuprisingly up to the job.

    1. “But reason is unsuprisingly up to the job.”

      Up to the job of NOT sufficiently sucking butt with the Trump regime, in some people’s mind!

      What’s so good about Government Almighty picking winners and losers, and breaking up the losers? Does anyone’s life and liberty depend on breaking up Facebook and Google? If not, why not leave well enough alone? Is always-more-powerful Government Almighty somehow a GOOD thing?

      1. If you can show where your phone service suffered after the breakup of Ma Bell, be my guest.

        1. Old Ma Bell was a “natural monopoly” in the old days of physical land lines. Railroads, AC power lines, natural gas lines, physical-Phone lines… Are “natural monopolies” because a new competitor has to string new wires / pipes / railroads… Makes it hard to compete with the “natural monopoly” then of course… So for all except anarchists, SOME Government Almighty regulation or intervention makes sense in these cases.

          Google and Facebook don’t fit into the same shoebox here (they are not “natural monopolies”), so Government Almighty should BUTT OUT, except for generally providing an even playing field, with courts to adjudicate disputes (especially contract disputes), etc.

          1. Using the term “Natural Monopolies” to be an excuse for massive regulation is ridiculous.

            If it weren’t for government subsidies and regulation to protect AT&T, we might have had cell phones earlier. High prices and monopolistic behavior by companies is a great incentivizer for people to create solutions.

            AT&T controls all landlines- cell phones are a solution. Look how hardly anyone has landlines anymore once cell phones became reliable.

            1. “If it weren’t for government subsidies and regulation to protect AT&T, we might have had cell phones earlier. ”

              I believe that this is largely true. It was a claim made by a feature-length Reason article a few years ago, but I am too lazy to look it up… Well hold on now…

              We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier
              Thanks for nothing, Federal Communications Commission.

              1. This is probably true, but the phone monopoly was a creation of government, not a natural evolution for legitimate business reasons in the first place.

          2. “Old Ma Bell was a “natural monopoly” in the old days of physical land lines”

            No it wasn’t, nor were the electric utilities. In the early days, there were two or 3 companies stringing phone wire and half a dozen or more electric companies stringing electric lines to serve the same areas.

            This did not stop because of natural barriers like physical plant costs, it stopped because the state and city governments stepped in to put a stop to it, because they didn’t like the way the multiple wires looked. Ma Bell was a monopoly because the government made it so, and for no other reason.

            1. At some point, stringing more and more and more wires… And certainly pipes… AND HOLY SHIT, HOW ABOUT RAILS?!??! Becomes way wasteful. Shall we clutter up the landscape with redundant wires, pipes, and rails… And recall that such things eat up right-of-way easements, real estate, especially railroads… So, to avoid all the redundancy and wastefulness, we invoke hopefully-minimal Government Almighty to reduce wasteful duplication. There ARE such things as “natural monopolies”, and all but hide-bound anarchists will admit that there has to be SOME public-sector way to regulate, to down-throttle the wasteful duplication.

              1. I have electric wires and phone wires (and natural gas pipelines) out in the rear of “my” property, with them having easements. It’s at least a minor hassle for me to have to deal with all the intruders onto “my” property, to maintain these wires & pipes. (Collar the bad-dog, move crap out of their way, etc.). I’d hate to multiply the intruders by 5 or 10, to allow access to the easements, for 5 or 10-fold increase in competition for these utility services.

                So am I a horrible statist, for being glad that Government Almighty regulates on my behalf, to lessen the intrusions onto “my” property?

              2. You really are incoherent in your arguments.

                1. You really say nothing when you PRETEND to say something.

                  “You really are incoherent in your arguments.”

                  Same to ya, buddy… Also, you are TOTALLY icky-poo!!!

          3. In other words, your phone service didn’t suffer. Thanks for confirming that.

            Google and Facebook don’t fit into the same shoebox here (they are not “natural monopolies”)

            How so?

            1. Google and Facebook string no wires, run no pipelines, lay no railroad tracks, do NOTHING that requires Government Almighty to enforce “eminent domain” or “access easements” onto my property. That is WAAAY the hell different than natural gas or oil pipelines, wires of any kind, or railroads, or other roads, for that matter. The difference is plain for all to see.

              1. But they have the advantage of network effects and efficiency of scale. What made Ma Bell a monopoly wasn’t the local governments telling competitors that they couldn’t string wires. It was the fact that you could call more people on Ma Bell than you could on any competitor, and the bigger they got, the more that was true.

                FB is close to a monopoly not because they do a great job, (They regularly piss off their customers.) but because of network effects: People want to be on FB because the people they know are on FB.

                Google is approaching a monopoly because the more resources you have to throw at search, the better you can be, which means the biggest search engine is going to be the best search engine.

                These social media and IT giants are natural monopolies because you have to start out as big as they are to compete with them, you can’t start small and grow.

                Then you add in conspiracy to deny competitors basic financial services, such as Gab and Hatreon faced, and you’re moving up from natural monopolies to artificial ones of the sort anti-trust is perfectly appropriate for.

                1. Good points, thanks!

                2. Exactly. Natural or not, they are more or less de facto monopolies at this point…

    2. That’s a fair point. The deregulation is generally a good thing. There are plenty of other things Trump does that I think are less good. But they don’t necessarily negate or undo the good things.

      1. The good inTrump’s evil is stronger than the evil in Trump’s good.

    3. Trump could nuke half of South America and you’d still masturbate to his image. Why bother typing anything? It’s just endless, endless Republican cocksucking. We get it. You like the taste.

      1. Good old consistent Tony, sticking with stupid.

      2. Tony imagines Trumpies are simply mirror images of Obamabots. Trump wasn’t elected because he was an “articulate, mildly attractive black man”.
        He was elected to be a incarnate middle-finger to you and the rest of the bien-pensants.

        1. Which is another way of saying you’re a bunch of morons. Do you think I’m unaware?

      3. Why stop with half??? And why not use the neutron bomb to leave the infrastructure intact???

    4. John
      May.7.2019 at 11:21 am
      “It takes a special breed of stupid to think that breaking up facebook and google would somehow undo or outweight the good that has been accomplished by freeing hundreds of billions worth of productive areas of the economy from regulation. But reason is unsuprisingly up to the job.”

      John, you’ve outdone yourself for stupidity there. You’ve tried hard before, but here, you’ve done it.

    5. The problem with the big tech companies is fraud, not monopoly.

      Reason doesnt give a shit about that either though.

      Reason isnt about freedom or free markets. It is a neo liberal corporatist magazine.

      1. Nah, the problem really is were now pushing two full generations of children and young adults too damn stupid to check anywhere else for news but their social media feeds.

        1. Uhhhh, Google manipulates search… How the hell are you supposed to find the truth if the search engines tilt everything they’ll show you as well??? Get a literal PAPER newspaper printed and mailed to you by some fringe organization?

          It’s not just FB, if it were it’d be a lot less of a problem. It’s FB, Twitter, Google, YouTube, now payment processors, on and on. Shit is getting pretty hairy out there for those that are following what is actually going on with deplatforming. Saying it’s just people bitching about being kicked off FB is a GROSS under statement.

  2. Trump’s regime has SLOWED THE GROWTH RATE of the regulatory state… Hooray!!!

    Now how about actually CUTTING the size of Government Almighty? I see no real progress there! I still must get a physician’s permission to blow on a cheap plastic lung flute! WHEN is Trump going to give the FDA a MUCH-needed castration?!?!

    To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

    1. It’s pretty difficult to actually reverse the growth, given judicial enforcement of the administrative procedures act; If the Trump administration decides an Obama era regulation wasn’t really needed, and tries to revoke it, they get enjoined in court. They have to go through the same long process repealing it as was needed to impose it, only with the courts inclined to double guess them instead of rubber stamp it.

  3. T likely sees through the br’er-rabbit act of Z he should leave the social media companies alone.

  4. No. The deregulation is real. The “impulse” are mostly a deranged fantasy of Trump critics.

    1. The deregulation is so real it doubled Obama’s deficit.

      1. I’ll take “2 things that have jack to do with each other” for 1000 Alex.

        1. What is one thing you care about because a Republican did and another thing you don’t care about because a Republican did it?

          1. The primary growth in the deficit is the baseline budgeting passed by Congress. It’s the spending you fucking retarded piece of shit. Stop cheering on a spending rate increase that is greater than GDP growth. You learn about exponential equations in 7th grade if you arent in the dumb fuck class. Try mapping put what happens.

            1. I’m certainly not cheering on the increase in spending on tax cuts that serve no useful social purpose.

              1. Tony
                May.7.2019 at 11:03 pm
                “I’m certainly not …”

                You certainly are a fucking ignoramus who should STFU and go die someplace where we can’t smell the stink.
                Seriously, please commit suicide and make the world a better place.

                1. Drink less.

      2. Trump has presided over two years of near-record low growth in the size of the federal regulatory state, and his administration has hacked away at both the total number and the annual cost of federal regulations, rules, and so-called “regulatory dark matter” like regulatory guidance letters and notices.

        You know, you’re not exactly making a case for the benefits of deregulation when you make statements like this, vis-à-vis what Eric said above.

      3. Chipper Morning Wood
        May.7.2019 at 12:50 pm
        “The deregulation is so real it doubled Obama’s deficit.”

        The stupid is so real, it gave us this imbecilic comment!

        1. Trump anti-authoritarianism is so real, he lets Sevo take off the Gimp-mask before giving the POTUS prostate a tongue massage!

    2. Yes, it’s real. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that are also real.

  5. Anti-trust is NOT authoritarian, per se.

    When a corporation forms is submits Articles of Incorporation or whatever each states calls it to the state where it is formed.
    Amazon’s certificate of incorporation, for example, states that the corporation’s purpose is “to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be organized under the General Corporation Law of Delaware.”

    This gives government some say in what the “Public trust” might entail.

    Companies can choose to remain private and do not have to answer to share holders or other “public” entities.

  6. The real problem is that social media companies are violating their own terms of service, which is a contractual violation. Enforcing contracts is in the purview of the government.

    1. Indeed. Forcing them to abide by the rules they created is what libertarianism should be about. Allowing unilateral abrogation of contractual agreements seems to be one of the least libertarian concepts available.

    2. Don’t the terms usually include a clause that they can change the terms at any time?
      Seems like some shady shit to me. But if it’s in there, it must be lawyer approved.
      Seems to me the better question to ask is how to encourage more competition with companies like Facebook and Google.

      1. “Don’t the terms usually include a clause that they can change the terms at any time?”

        I believe such contracts have been ruled against repeatedly.

        1. From


          Companies still think that they can unilaterally change their terms of service agreement without providing any notice of the changes to the users. Why do big companies think they can get away with this? A lot of it has to do with what’s become industry-standard contracting drafting language. If you’ve looked at ToS before, this language will look familiar:

          We may, at any time, and at our sole discretion, modify these Terms and Conditions of Use, including our Privacy Policy, with or without notice to the User. Any such modification will be effective immediately upon public posting. Your continued use of our Service and this Site following any such modification constitutes your acceptance of these modified Terms.
          Now, there’s a lot to argue about with respect to the actual, substantive content of a terms of service agreement. But the sample clause above brings us to a much more basic, procedural problem: can a company or service change its terms of service and not provide notice to its users about those changes?

          This questions brings us to Rodman v. Safeway, Inc., an interesting case out of the Northern District of California. Long story short, the plaintiff alleged that Safeway charged higher prices for items ordered on its online store than purchased in-store. Naturally, the case then focused on whether or not Safeway’s online terms of service promised the same prices online as in-store. Mid-case, Safeway unilaterally amended its terms of service to clarify that the prices in its online store were not necessarily the same prices as in-store.

          The problem? Safeway never notified its users of this change.

          Safeway’s “Changes to Special Terms” Policy
          Here’s the Court describing the process Safeway would have created for assent online:

          Safeway contends that, because Class Members read the initial registration contract, every time they opted to go forward with an online purchase after registration, they were on notice that they were assenting to a new contractual agreement, governed by the Special Terms operative elsewhere on the website at the time of that purchase.
          Basically, this logic creates two-tiered system of online contract making. In the first instance, a clickwrap agreement (clicking “OK” or “I agree”) is used to bind the user. But, in the second instance, after a modification to the first agreement, a browsewrap agreement (continued use=assent/agreement to the new terms) is used to bind the user. The Court, thankfully, doesn’t look too kindly upon this new contractual arrangement, arguing that it creates the expectation for “consumers to spend time inspecting a contract they have no reason to believe has been changed” and that “the imposition of such an onerous requirement on consumers would be particularly lopsided.”

          The Court put the situation pretty simply: “The agreement did not give Safeway the power to bind its customers to unknown future contract terms, because consumers cannot assent to terms that do not yet exist. A user confronting a contract in which she purports to agree to terms in whatever form they may appear in the future cannot know to what she is are agreeing.”

          The funny thing is, though, despite the Court’s reasoning (that users cannot assent to terms that do not yet exist), and the reasoning of other Courts (see: the Ninth Circuit in 2006 in Douglas v. Talk America and the Northern District of Texas in 2009 in Harris v. Blockbuster, Inc.), the amend-at-will-without-notice clauses are still very much part of the terms of service ecosystem.

  7. Will Boehm stop beating his wife?

    I love loaded questions.

  8. “Will Eric Boehm’s Demagogic Impulses Derail His Article?”

  9. How’s that libertarian moment coming along? Republicans are warmongering against both Iran and Venezuela right now. And what good timing now that a bunch of terrible shit is coming out about Trump’s many crimes. Tails are wagging dogs so hard right now.

    1. Stay with stupid, the Tony way.

    2. Tony
      May.7.2019 at 8:43 pm
      “How’s that libertarian moment coming along?”
      Better than is has been in quite a while.

      “Republicans are warmongering against both Iran and Venezuela right now.”
      No kidding? Your cites are missing, you fucking lefty ignoramus.

      “And what good timing now that a bunch of terrible shit is coming out about Trump’s many crimes.”
      Is that eating fried chicken with a knife and a fork, or did you find some fucking lefty fantasy again?

      “Tails are wagging dogs so hard right now.”
      Fuck off, you pathetic piece of shit. You’re too stupid to know how stupid you are.

  10. I realize I’m not respecting a central libertarian fixation, but deregulation is not a principle, it’s an interest. You are all jackbooted zombies cheering on a “principle” that is nothing more than corporations wanting to be able to make more profit at the expense of the public. The American economy is not, nor has it ever been, too regulated. The Chamber of Commerce is there to make sure of it.

    So all of you excusing some comic book level authoritarianism coming from the president because he makes a few CEOs a little more money they didn’t have to even work for aren’t doing good enough.

    Why don’t you rednecks go somewhere Trumptards hang out and leave us libertarians in peace? I realize that would leave like 3 people.

    1. You claiming to be libertarian is like Jeff claiming he has a reasoned argument. Hilarious.

    2. Did…did you just claim to be libertarian?

      This truly is the bizarro world now when dealing with the left.

      Honk, honk.

      1. As much of a libertarian as all the people here lining up to share a Shark Week holiday with Donald Trump.

        1. Tony
          May.7.2019 at 11:04 pm
          “As much of a libertarian as all the people here lining up to share a Shark Week holiday with Donald Trump.”

          Once again proving yourself to be a fucking lefty ignoramus, which is not surprising.

    3. Tony
      May.7.2019 at 8:52 pm
      “I realize I’m not respecting a central libertarian fixation, but deregulation is not a principle, it’s an interest. ”

      No, you are proving yourself to be a fucking lefty ignoramus, which is not surprising.

  11. Another reason analysis that pretends the US is the only country on the planet with tariffs and we were in perfect regulatory balance prior to Trump.

  12. Pretty sure Trump can kill any chance of re-election if he manages to cripple the economy.
    Tariffs are a good way to do that.

    1. “Trump can kill any chance of re-election ”

      He can always start another war, as long as he starts it after the economy tanks, not before.

    2. Not really.

      Everybody likes to oversell the importance of tariffs… They’re just another tax like any other, they don’t have magic powers. If he jacked 100% of imports to 200% tariffs, then yeah, that could really bork things. But he’s not even EVER discussed a single tariff regime that would substantially obliterate things even once. With the other positive things he’s doing, we’re still waaay ahead on net, and will likely continue to be so.

  13. Expanding on a post above…

    Natural monopolies or not, they are more or less de facto monopolies at this point… And given that the nature of them is largely to control speech and information, I find that FAR more troubling than any monopoly in a physical product or selling hamburgers or whatever.

    I know of no entity before in history that almost certainly had the power to single handedly swing elections… I’m pretty sure in a vacuum where everybody else was neutral either Google OR FB could swing an election via their policies on how they handle information flows. The fact that both of them, and the entire MSM, and every other tech company are all in the tank for the left… I find it quite troubling.

    The question is is it worth letting perhaps several elections get swung by Zuckerberg just so we can sit on our asses and declare we’re letting the market work… Or would allowing countless commies to get into office by allowing them to abuse their power in fact be a net LOSS of economic freedom?

    In practical terms I’m thinking it’s an awful lot like kicking one guy out of the lifeboat so that 40 others don’t drown at this point… Because getting President Sanders, followed by President AOC would be A LOT worse than a well crafted law that said “No speech that is legal under the US constitution may be banned on a social media site in the USA” or whatever.

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