People commonly describe regulatory requirements as unreasonable when they perceive the costs or inconveniences of compliance to exceed the social benefits of compliance. Regulatory unreasonableness arises from regulatory programs that rely on highly prescriptive legal rules. Eugene Bardach and Robert Kagan refer to both “rule-level” regulatory unreasonableness, in which a statute or regulation imposes aggregate social costs that exceed the resulting social benefits (or produces smaller net benefits than an alternative regulation), and “site-level” unreasonableness, which occurs when a regulation that efficiently reduces harm or risk in most situations nevertheless is superfluous or excessively costly when applied in atypical contexts.

Consequences and Sources

Regulatory unreasonableness makes regulatory compliance more inefficient and costly than it needs to be. Because it is experienced as irrational and unjust, regulatory unreasonableness ...

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