Time to Pay Up
By Evelyn Pyburn
Over the years as a reporter and learning about economics, early on I became alarmed at the rate and intrusiveness of regulations. As I came to understand the depth and breadth of regulations on business, I failed to understand, not only the acceptance of them but the often enthusiastic embracing of them, by business people, and especially by most of the organizations that represent businesses.
When asked about their biggest concerns, business people would most often, and still do, lament the impact of taxes. While understanding the obvious negativity of taxes draining away investment resources for businesses, in talking to some of the business people, I would argue that the greater threat for business in the US was the escalation of regulations, and not because of their cost — which is no small matter— but because I could so clearly see the end game of the amassing of such power. The cost of compliance in terms of dollars and cents is nothing compared to the irreplaceable value of our freedom.
I am sure that others could see it too, but so for granted did they take their freedom that they found such a day as this, incomprehensible.
Now with the emergence of a persuasive pretext in the form of COVID-19, business people are discovering the degree to which they have relinquished power to the government over their freedom to do business. So, with the ramifications becoming so obvious, while it has taken some 50 years, I can say, “I told you so.” It gives no satisfaction being able to do so.
I came to understand that most of the enthusiasm businesses often had for regulations was what they saw as a convenient means to use the power of government to inhibit potential competition. Many businesses and industries actively undermined the free market, and were often the instigators of new regulations aimed at crippling upstart newcomers, who threatened to challenge them.
As obvious as are the regulatory powers that government is now using to control and throttle business activity, I was still somewhat surprised to hear that one businessman, facing the first round of shutdowns imposed by government, and being told the government would take away the license he needed to do business if he did not comply — he actually said, “So this is how we pay for the protection against competition that we have enjoyed.”
He is surely among a very few honest enough to admit so much, because always before their justification was that regulations were for the sole purpose of “public health and safety.” Their real strategy was never discussed publically and undoubtedly many didn’t even admit it to themselves. And, needless to say, government was always an eager and enthusiastic participant in making the unholy covenants.
The current reality of our economic situation is that government has great ability to control what business people can do, primarily because of a wealth of regulatory powers, any and all of which can be whipped out at any moment, to coerce compliance from innocent citizens and an ostensibly free people, whose only crime is trying to earn a living and manage a privately held enterprise. After all, the essence of a free market is the voluntary exchange of value for value among citizens. To prohibit that is to violate the individual freedom upon which this country is based.
In selling licenses and permits and having to gain permissions from boards and agencies – even a municipal business license — such a simple voluntary exchange has been inhibited, and so arbitrarily burdened, that any idea of being in a state of freedom is an illusion which COVID has suddenly unveiled for the police state that it has become. The regulatory bureaucracy that now prevails in our country effectively controls the daily life activities of both purveyors and consumers.
And, just as that one unique observant businessman so aptly stated, this is indeed the other side of the bargain for which they sold their free souls.