Flurry Of State, Local Deregulation To Fight Pandemic Shows How Unnecessary The Regs Were

P. Gardner Goldsmith | March 30, 2020
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One of the strange blessings to come from our current struggles against the Wuhan Coronavirus is the revelation that many so-called “regulations” imposed on businesses are completely unnecessary and wholly harmful to our living standards.

You might have heard about one or two “restrictions” being “lightened” in your area, and Charles Blain, writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, has compiled a larger list, asking the simple question: if these “regulations” should be lifted to help better our lives during times of trouble, why not lift them forever and learn a lesson about freedom and economic prosperity?

For example, even as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh imposed “wicked” (as they’d say near Boston) new prohibitions on restaurants sitting customers down to eat, he graciously “lifted” the “licensing” requirement for restaurateurs to home-deliver. How nice of him to show not only this bald-faced assumption of power, but that the “licensing” scam is a money-grab by the city that restricts entry into the market and keeps delivery prices artificially higher than they have to be.

Added Blain:

Even New York City suspended its enforcement of illegal e-bikes during the crisis to accommodate for the influx of delivery orders, the state also moved to allow liquor-to-go.

Since the pandemic has so detrimentally effected the supply chain, Blain notes that Texas Governor Greg Abbott “waived oversize and overweight restrictions for commercial trucks and suspended requirements to register under the International Registration Plan or to obtain temporary registration, as long as the truck is registered in one US state.”

That means more competition for the already-registered truckers, sure, but it translates to a larger pool of drivers, more potential deliveries, and potential savings for consumers at a time when they could really use the savings and the goods.

But, in fact, consumers are always the ones who decide whether they need goods. My opinion on whether they “really’ need them now, or at any other time, is irrelevant. To assume for others whether they need or want something is arrogant and the height of conceit. In fact, why not recognize that key principle from the start, and tell politicians it’s not their place to enact unnecessary restrictions on the market for fees. For, in fact, what is a “regulation” or a “government restriction” or a “licensing” demand?

It’s a threat of retribution against a person for not doing or paying what the government orders. That’s immoral, and it kills savings that could be spent on other things.

Blain also notes that in Texas, there’s more revealing news.

Gov. Abbott also waived regulations allowing doctors to receive the same payment for over-the-phone telemedicine visits that they would for in-person visits for patients on state-regulated insurance plans.

So, now, they’re being “allowed” to do something they could have done in the past – something that could have saved many people time and money, saved gasoline, saved lives on the road, and provided myriad other benefits.

How nice of the Governor to recognize this, even for a little while.

And when one says “they’re being allowed”, what one means is that, in most of these cases, the head of the Executive Branch of the state or of a municipality simply won’t enforce the statutes or codes. That may only last for a few months, or it might be more permanent. But the question remains: if politicians don’t like how certain people are conducting their jobs and offering services or products to consumers, why don’t the politicians do the peaceful thing and enter the market as private competitors, rather than passing statutes and codes?

Finally, also in Texas, Blain notes this improvement, via Gov. Abbot:

Most notably, he waived state laws that prohibit alcohol industry trucks from delivering supplies to grocery stores saying, ‘by removing these regulations, we are streamlining the process to replenish the shelves in grocery stores across the state.’ All of these moves allowed for the market to identify the needs of the public and fill them as quickly as possible.

Which pretty much makes the free-market case, right there.

Now, some might wonder, “What about safety? What about security against disease?”

And here, we have to note one of the most important points of economic reality: individual decisions regarding risk and benefit.

Life is a series of trade-offs. All of us make innumerable calculations every hour about the benefits of certain actions versus what we might lose by taking said actions. Shall one listen to that news story in the car, or get into the office to start a tiny bit ahead? Shall one use an old razor to shave, or start the new one? Will one buy lunch, or make it?

As a result, we can see that truckers also make their own decisions, and prices play a major role in incentivizing people to take on risky work.

We need food and supplies, and, during this pandemic, we can see how important the supply chain is. As a result, trucking work is something we recognize as important. But this work is now riskier, because truckers will be in contact with people and packages that have been touched by others. This puts them at greater risk of infection, so they rightly might want more money to compensate them for taking on said risk.

Risk carries a value. It has a price, and higher compensation for risk is part of the free market paradigm, as are our own decisions about whether to accept products from these lines, based on what we see as our personal risk.

By lifting these restrictions, politicians are allowing us to make more of our own decisions about risk, availability, and the prices attached to both. Moreover, we see the larger lesson, which is that the restrictions themselves always get in the way of that calculation process, and are always a detriment.