Cornelius M. Kerwin
The American University
A binding statement of law or policy issued by an agency of government that establishes future rights, obligations, or procedures.
Rules profoundly influence the conduct and success of public administration in the United States. A good case can be made that rules are the most important products of government agencies. Rules give specific form and meaning to statutory provisions that are often broad, imprecise, and incomplete. In performing this function, rules establish both the benefits one can expect from government and the obligations one bears. Rules, by providing the content of many public programs, also structure their subsequent implementation and administration. In so doing, they channel the expenditure of enormous resources, human and otherwise, in both the public and private sectors. In this way rules are the form of law and public policy that have the most direct, immediate, and profound effect on the performance of public programs, and, ultimately, the quality of life in the United States. Despite concerted efforts over the past two decades to reduce their prominence and impact, rules remain a dominant force in all aspects of U.S. society.
Defining the term "rule" is not a trivial exercise in semantics. On the contrary, when it is determined that an action of the public sector is or will be a rule, the government bears heavy legal obligations to proceed with that action, using certain prescribed techniques. It is important to be quite