A reader of the U-B commenting on my recent letter praising Ludwig Erhard asked two pertinent questions:
Wasn’t the German postwar economic revival a result of Marshall Aid, rather than Erhard’s appointment as economics minister, and doesn’t the U.S. economy need regulation to avoid a repetition of the catastrophic events of 2008?
On the first, it’s worth noting that Britain received twice as much aid as West Germany, yet its economy was stagnating while Germany’s was booming.
On the second, indeed we need regulation. The trick is to get it right. The law of unintended consequences is always lurking in the background, as the Affordable Health Care Act has shown. The goal of extending health care to the uninsured has resulted in an increase in unemployment and a shift from full-time to part-time jobs.
While the media has focused on health regulation, it is only one aspect of the problem. A man unemployed because bad regulation has caused banks to cut back on their lending, or one out of work because of onerous environmental rules, also contribute to the jobless recovery we are experiencing.
Regulations that are too complicated favor large corporations at the expense of small businessmen who cannot afford expensive legal talent. Continually changing regulations make planning for the future difficult, particularly for companies whose plants take years to design and build. Worst of all are the punitive regulations, punitive in the sense that their cost to their victim far exceeds any benefits to society they may bring. Ideal regulation would emulate the Ten Commandments: Concise, uncomplicated and unchanged in 2,000 years.