One of the most cogent Op-Ed pieces I have ever read was published by Texas Tech University Economics Professor Benjamin Powell in the May 3, 2020 edition of the Orange County Register. The article discusses the realities of the attempts by governments to be central planners and to decide when and how to “re-open” our economy. I strongly recommend that you find and read it, but in the meantime I will get you started by quoting liberally from it.

“(G)overnment officials can’t know how to plan that reopening for precisely the same reasons that they can’t know how to plan an economy that’s already open.

“Centrally planned economies have a 100-year history of stagnation, inefficiency, and shortages of basic consumer goods. It didn’t take a global health crisis to empty the shelves in Cuban or Venezuelan grocery stores. Mistakes made by central planners, who hold monopoly power over economic decisions, did that all on their own.

“The future is necessarily uncertain. So, anyone forecasting supply and demand for a given product is bound to make mistakes. But market economies decentralize decision-making. The mistakes of some entrepreneurs are usually made up for by the correct actions of others, while profit-and-loss signals guide mistaken entrepreneurs to adjust their behavior.

“Unfortunately, the health care sector is one of the most regulated sectors of the U.S. economy. Government planners limit the ability of entrepreneurs to discover better ways of providing health care – with predictable dismal results.”

Professor Powell goes on to say that the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration first used their monopoly powers to obstruct private efforts to produce testing, vaccines and bringing new products to market by prohibiting doctors, patients and entrepreneurial companies from exercising their “right to try.” And, yes, finally some progress was made when the CDC provided special “fast-track” approvals to the private sector, but the need for those special approvals simply highlights the problems in central planning. The better way was and always will be to employ a system where individuals and entrepreneurs are free to choose how to interact with other businesses and their customers and employees. No one wants to get sick, so employees and customers will be much less likely to work for or frequent businesses where the health risks are too high. But the best solutions will not be the same everywhere because one size clearly does not fit all! Instead the solutions come from the Invisible Hand of the pricing system, economic incentives to make the right decisions and everyone’s desire to be and remain healthy. Thus no government planner can know better than the private sector can regarding how to re-open and maintain the economy.

My own observations are that politicians naturally respond to problems by protecting themselves politically. So virtually every governor and mayor said things like “I’m going to do everything in my power to keep you healthy.” Why did they do that? Because if you stay healthy: “See, it worked – I am a hero!” And if you did get sick: “Well, you can’t blame me because I did everything I could!” Of course this pandemic brought us serious health issues and of course no one wants to get sick. But government central planners have in the past brought global starvation to millions of people. In addition, the arbitrary closing of hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” businesses and putting literally tens of millions of people out of work also caused damages: think suicides, depression and even domestic violence, in addition to the enormous economic losses! Politicians with political courage, such as Libertarians, would have left the operations of businesses up to the business owners and their employees and customers. For example, let stores advertise that they have an effective air filtration system, require masks for and take the temperature of all who enter, practice social distancing, and only allow so many people into their stores at any one time, etc. Then their customers can decide whether or not to do business at that location. Churches can choose to provide spacing and other protections for people’s health fully as well as big box stores and other “essential” businesses! Let their worshipers decide. Crises are often used to erode our freedoms and liberties, but those freedoms and liberties are the soul of our country! We are right to protest. We are right to defy. We don’t have monarchs in our country, and there are many decisions that still must only be decided by “We the People!”

Quote for the week: “There can be no rainbows without sunshine – and rain.”

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

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