Let us begin with a statement of the obvious. Whatever some Americans may say about the state, there is no denying that its reach in American society is vast; its functions are many and not particularly dif erent from those of the state in Canada, France, or the United Kingdom; and its share of the national economy only marginally smaller than is typical of G-7 economies. These facts about the size and functions of the American state sit uncomfortably alongside a dominant narrative that includes mistrust of the state, small government, and rugged individualism as central themes. So too do the fact that the United States has as many laws, regulations, and executive orders as any democratic society and that its laws tend to be much longer and more detailed than those of other countries. The federal tax code is exhibit A, running to about 24 megabytes or 7,500 single-spaced pages. The health reform bill signed into law by President Obama was criticized by opponents for its length, but at about 2,400 pages it was no more prolix than quite a number of laws that Congress has passed in recent decades.