File this one under “modern complexity.”
The United States Code, the complete collection of all Federal laws, consists of 22 million words with 80,000 connections between laws. Reading at 200 words per minute, it would take 76 round-the-clock days to read it. Or 46 work weeks.
Here’s an interesting way to visualize the size of the U.S. Code. A standard sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper holds 450 words in Arial 12-point print, which means printing the entire U.S. Code takes 48,888 sheets of paper—not to mention a small fortune in printer ink refills. Laid side-by-side, those pages would take up 31,744 square feet of floor space.
Interestingly, there isn’t a definitive answer to how many laws there are in the Code. In 1982, the U.S. Justice Department tried to calculate the total number of criminal laws. After failing to determine the answer, one Justice Department official stated: “You will have died and been resurrected three times,” before finding the answer. The Library of Congress called the task “nearly impossible.”
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