Without the government, who will protect us from hand sanitizer, alcohol home delivery, and supermarkets making a lot of noise? As Washington locks up the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are also freeing many Americans from the chains of rules, regulations, and restrictions that have been burdensome and egregious. Have we learned a lesson from Coronavirus, that government interference is a nuisance? If the red tape barrage hinders the public during a health crisis, did we need it to begin with? Why should we return to it after the 80-degree water and soap wash the virus away?
President Donald Trump has engaged in a Washington Chainsaw Massacre to thousands of pages of federal regulatory code since moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His initial plan on the campaign trail was to remove two regulations for every new one created, but the numbers may be higher than projected. Since the Coronapocalypse hit the shores of the United States, all three levels of government have participated in relaxing rules and restrictions to benefit Americans during this crisis.
Hand sanitizer has become a hot commodity for the last couple of months. It is nearly impossible to find anywhere. To increase supplies in the marketplace and to help hospitals, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau are allowing distilleries nationwide to produce hand sanitizer without having to go through the tedious process of permits, formula approval, taxes, and other egregious measures that slow everything down. The bureau will waive these components until June 30.
Are you home with the kids? Are you spending all your time with your spouse? Is that Rubik’s Cube tearing your family apart? You need a drink, and you can now have your intoxicating beverages brought to your doorstep. Many jurisdictions across the country are lifting prohibitions on alcohol home delivery, allowing restaurants and bars to drop off your much-needed bottle of bourbon to survive self-isolation.
Plastic or a filthy, disgusting, bacteria-filled tote bag? After years of politicians caving to the demands of environmental zealots and banning plastic bags, local governments are tergiversating and welcoming the return of polyethylene. It turns out that reusable bags are one of the worst things to use for your groceries during a pandemic.
Wyoming is finally allowing residents to produce perishable food and beverages in their homes and sell to the public or stores. Texas okayed the delivery of alcohol and groceries in the same vehicle. Oregon is letting motorists pump their gas until April 11. Gasp! Are we living in Ayn Rand’s world?
It is not just the United States that embraces libertarianism in a time of COVID-19. Canada is witnessing a deregulatory push in the name of beating Coronavirus. Provinces are finally permitting virtual visits with doctors, municipalities are easing noise restrictions to facilitate supermarkets to restock their shelves at night, and the federal government is providing greater financial flexibility surrounding retirement income withdrawals. The Great White North is also mirroring the United States by easing rules on hand sanitizer manufacturing, permitting alcohol delivery, and suspending plastic bag bans.
So, all it takes for the government to shrink in certain ways is for 100,000 Americans to contract a virus?
Republicans and Democrats across the country are engaged in a deregulatory blitzkrieg. In the middle of this campaign to defeat the Coronavirus, progressives are conceding that regulations are burdensome and that government is a superfluous institution. By tearing down this wall of absurd interventions, politicians are showing to the nation that paternalistic public policy only does more harm than good.
Every time government proposes a new law or institutes a new regulation, the purveyors of nannyism contend that it is for the public’s best interest. Why, you would be poisoned without companies going through the proper state protocols to produce hand sanitizer. Why, you could become an alcoholic if you order scotch and bourbon for home delivery without regulations in place. Why, you are too insipid to fill your automobile with gasoline. But why would these same concerns not be relevant during the COVID-19 meltdown? One would think that bureaucrats are attempting to justify their positions by coming up with ridiculous impositions on society when everything is sunshine and lollipops.
Some suggest that this could serve as an opportunity for governments to establish permanent red tape review committees to determine if regulations in place in 2012 would be helpful in current conditions.
“It’s common for governments to set up a panel to review red tape, then act on some of the panel’s recommendations and then shut the process down for years on end,” said Colin Craig, the president of the SecondStreet.org think-tank in Canada. “Establishing permanent red tape review committees could help governments stay on top of timely and important public needs as society evolves.”
For an oil-rich and wintry nation that forces small businesses to spend $10 billion on unnecessary regulation, this would be a good idea. Of course, it would be helpful for jurisdictions around the world to soak red tape in kerosene and remove the chains of the free-enterprise system and the invisible hand of the marketplace.
The Ratchet Effect
The ratchet effect in economics is when prices rise due to temporary pressures but then fail to decline to their previous levels when the cause goes away. During any crisis, the government behaves comparably; it expands in size and scope and infringes on your liberties. By leaving its red tape fetishism in the bedroom, the state is exposing its hypocrisy and extending some breathing room to the population. It is a bittersweet symphony. But do not expect to be freed from the shackles of the Leviathan when the nation is unlocked. You will still be taxed and regulated to death with your restraints firmly intact.
Read more from Andrew Moran.
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