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How Loosening Regulations Can Fight Coronavirus and Help the Economy

Op-Eds and Articles

If a regulation isn’t needed during a crisis, it was probably never needed at all. To his credit, President Trump signed an executive order on May 19 to encourage federal regulatory agencies to remove regulations hindering the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal, state, and local officials have already removed more than 500 regulations from the books in recent weeks. The Food and Drug Administration lifted restrictions on telemedicine, enabling millions of people to check in with their doctors without risking virus exposure, for example. The FDA has also promised drastically accelerated approval for coronavirus treatments as scientists develop them. And local authorities across the country waived permitting requirements for restaurants to offer delivery to customers who were unable to dine in. Now is the time to continue that process and speed it up. There has been plenty of talk about how the pandemic demonstrates the need for more government, but the advantages that can come from regulatory relaxation suggest that, on the contrary, it has made the case for rather less.

As it is, Washington’s response to the COVID-19 crisis so far has fallen short. Hasty “flash policy” has sprinted through Congress with little debate, costing trillions of dollars and likely with limited economic impact. The new executive order’s proposed actions on regulation send a positive signal at a time when it is desperately needed.

Politicians do not make medical supplies. Entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers do — when they can get the right permits. Politicians will not lead an economic recovery, either. Washington can best help by getting out of the way — though doing so will take considerable effort.

Waiving regulations can take months or even years, even when they are clearly harmful. Trump’s new executive order is a start. It encourages agencies to use whatever emergency powers they have to speed along the cleanup process. Unfortunately, many drastic regulations are passed during emergencies, from unconstitutional national-security and surveillance policies to bailouts for favored big businesses. But fortunately, regulations can also be removed that way. We have a choice. The famous “ratchet effect” of government’s grabbing power during a crisis and keeping it afterward does not have to be an iron law.

Read the full article at National Review.