Five days ago, I wrote “Coronavirus and Big Government” to highlight how sloth-like bureaucracy and stifling red tape deserve much of the blame for America’s slow response to the crisis.
And I started that column by sharing four points from a previous column on “Government, Coronavirus, and Libertarianism.” I’ll start today’s column by repeating the final observation.
4. The federal government has hindered an effective response to the coronavirus.
Here’s a video from John Stossel documenting the federal government’s clumsy incompetence.
And here are a bunch of stories and tweets that provide additional elaboration.
Feel free to click on the underlying stories if you want to get even angrier about the deadly impact of big government.
Good. Another regulation we never needed bites the dust. https://t.co/Ytmy6p7mPi— Alex Tabarrok (@ATabarrok) March 26, 2020
Wondered why it's been so hard to ramp up production of surgical masks and respirators? Why haven't private companies flooded into the market to meet peak demand?— Paul Matzko (@PMatzko) March 25, 2020
Because they are regulated medical devices & new versions require FDA approval which can take months to obtain. 1/
Distiller trying to switch over to producing hand sanitizer must poison the hand sanitizer or be taxed as if it were producing an alcoholic beverage. https://t.co/HI4801oL0o— Alex Tabarrok (@ATabarrok) March 25, 2020
No, this is not why we have more coronavirus cases. We have more cases because the FDA and the CDC--both of which are regarded as world class regulators from whom other countries take their lead--were too slow off the mark in establishing a testing regime. https://t.co/KL78iecoBw— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) March 26, 2020
The silver lining to all the bad news is that politicians and bureaucrats have been relaxing regulatory barriers.
But will they learn the right lesson and permanently repeal government-created barriers that hinder the provision of health care?
Is it true, as Robert Tracinski wrote for the Bulwark, that “We’re All Libertarians now”?
This talking point has since been taken up by others in a more technically accurate form: there are no libertarians in a pandemic. The idea is that when a crisis hits, everyone suddenly realizes how much they need Big Government. This is a bizarre argument to make about a virus that got a foothold partly because of the corrupt and tyrannical policies of a communist government in China. The outbreak is currently at its worst in Italy, where socialized medicine has not turned out to be a panacea. And it was allowed to get out of control in America because the feds imposed an incompetent government monopoly on COVID-19 testing, blocking the use of better and faster tests developed by private companies. …There has been a surge of emergency deregulation to lift artificial barriers that prevent people from solving problems. …the loosening of federal controls on the private development of diagnostic testing, after the disastrous attempt to centralize it all at the CDC. We’re also seeing the suspension of restrictive licensing requirements on doctors and nurses to allow them to work across state lines, so they can go where the shortages are worst. There has also been a whole series of waivers on restrictions on the transportation and serving of food and beverages in order to help restaurants stay in business and feed their customers by offering curb-side service.
Needless to say, I hope Tracinski is right.
If you think I’m being too pessimistic, just remember that the Department of Veterans Affairs was rewarded with more money after letting veterans die on secret waiting lists, the IRS was rewarded with more money after persecuting Tea Party groups to help Obama’s political prospects, and the education monopoly endlessly gets rewarded with more money even though student outcomes stagnate or deteriorate.
All as predicted by the First Theorem of Government.