The Communist Deregulationists

Today we’re publishing a new piece by the academic economist who writes for Lockdown Sceptics. It’s about the unhappy provenance of the Government’s Covid policy and its tragic incoherence with the deregulation agenda.

Now consider the absurdity of the Government’s current deregulation agenda. They are looking at rules around work breaks, while literally closing restaurants and pubs. They think they are actually going to rejuvenate the British economy by closely examining builders’ smoke breaks – while at the same time massively restricting physical movement and banning many services entirely.

The distance between rhetoric and action is so large as to be bizarre. If you took the Johnson government at their word you would assume that Britain was on its way toward some sort of libertarian experiment in free market economics. Yet if you look at what the Government is doing it is far closer to what the Chavez and then Maduro government did to Venezuela.

I do not write this for rhetorical effect. Personally, I think many economists exaggerate the positive impact of deregulation. True, it is sometimes needed, but often it is simply done to check an ideological box; I do not believe that regulations on disabled toilets impact the economy one iota. I do not think, however, that economists exaggerate the negative effects of communistic interventions in the economy. Imposing extreme, top-down controls on how people live, on how they work, on how they buy and sell is a sure path to total impoverishment.

There is simply no analogy outside of communist control economies for what the Johnson Government is doing to this country. Even when the Churchill Government took over the British economy during World War 2, the controls were nowhere near as onerous. Rations were imposed, so that the troops got more, say, petrol than the average British subject, true, but ultimately people could move basically as they pleased and non-rationed goods could be bought and sold freely. The system was also rational: the Government needed to move certain goods from the domestic consumer market to the front and the ration system did that well.

By contrast, the current communistic-style regulations are – as they usually are in communist countries – utterly absurd. They change seemingly with Johnson’s mood. No one knows what they will be tomorrow, much less next week. Business owners and consumers cannot even try to plan around them because they flail around wildly. Better regulations to utterly demolish British living standards could not be dreamed up by the country’s worst enemies.

Worth reading in full.