, , , , , , , , , ,


Government is not well suited to regulate markets in many respects. In the first place, regulation is never absent from free markets: consumers, competitors, technology and all factors of production such as labor ultimately represent a network of forces that regulate market outcomes. The power of market self-regulation, and the often destructive results of government regulation, are discussed by Howard Baejter in “There is No Such Thing as an Unregulated Market“. Beyond the efficiency with which markets direct resources, Baejter notes that markets regulate the quality and pricing of goods and services. Mark Perry reviews Baejter’s post approvingly and adds some thoughts of his own:

… the ruthless consumer-regulators also waste no time praising, endorsing and recommending the products, restaurants, movies, services, sellers, contractors and businesses they like, both by supporting them with plenty of their regulatory certificates of approval (dollars), and by giving them positive, sometimes even glowing reviews on Amazon, Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes, eBay, Angie’s List, Uber, etc….

Baejter’s concluding section covers some ways in which government regulation short-circuits healthy market regulation. Regulatory actions not only impose significant compliance costs, but they often have the effect of suspending market price signals and hampering voluntary adjustments to change that would otherwise lead to improved welfare. Furthermore, regulated firms are often successful in “capturing” regulators, enabling the most powerful players in an industry to manipulate and obtain regulatory treatment that blunts competition. As Baetjer says:

… government regulation often “crowds out” regulation by market forces and consumer-regulators, and markets therefore operate less efficiently because the interests of the producers take priority over the interests of consumers…

The Mises Daily ran a post in early January by Patrick Barron in which he elaborates on the truism that peaceful, voluntary exchange necessarily improves well-being relative to third-party interference. Such interference may take the form of forced exchanges, rules, mandates, price controls, or distortions from taxation. A recent post on Sacred Cow Chips, “The State and the Invisible Future Lost“,  emphasized the sacrifice of human well-being brought on by over-regulation. From that post:

Our society routinely destroys economic opportunities as a matter of policy. This includes immediate discouragement of economic activity via tax disincentives and regulatory obstacles as well as lost capital investment and innovation. And it includes actions that grant protected status for monopolists, a steady by-product of the regulatory state.