The outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic has lead to governments (Federal, State, and Local) immediately stripping away many onerous regulations to help ease the burdens on their citizens. These regulations were, in most cases, suspended without much debate.
This outcome is positive for the liberty movement. Because governments have tacitly admitted that these regulations were not needed. If in a time of crisis these regulations that were stripped away were superfluous, then how are they necessary in “normal” times?
COVID-19 has swayed many people to arguments that have long been made by our fellow travelers in the liberty movement. The argument against occupational licensing, for instance, is a good example. Once mandatory, and seemingly necessary, licensure of doctors, nurses, EMTs and other medical professionals all fell by the wayside in state after state.
This was done, of course, to ensure that there were enough medical professionals to handle any surge of cases. But the crisis also opened the flood gates to reciprocation agreements that have long been a sticking point. Where once a nurse’s out-of-state license was invalid in a state, now that’s good enough in an emergency. Why isn’t it also good enough a year from now? Why does that same nurse have to get a new license just because there isn’t a pandemic raging? There are still patients that are suffering and will benefit from his or her medical expertise when the pandemic has subsided.
It’s not only the medical field where professional licenses have been shown to be pointless. Pennsylvania has waived licensing timeframes for barbers, cosmetologists, and accountants. None of these occupations are vital to saving lives.
In other fields where continuing education credits are required to keep your license active, those requirements have been suspended by some states. This is primarily because the continuing education training isn’t occurring, but if the state deemed me to no longer be qualified to be, for example, a fire inspector (in NJ) or a crane operator (in PA) without those credits six months ago, why am I qualified to still conduct those inspections or operate that crane now without taking those same training classes?
It just illustrates that most of the drive behind occupational licensing is a money grab as opposed to actually ensuring that the people doing the work are held to a certain standard.
But the more obvious examples of regulations that should never have been in place are the regulations that have been eased even though they truly play no role in easing the pandemic.
In my home state of New Jersey, the governor decreed that establishments that held a liquor license to operate a bar (as opposed to a “packaged goods” store—that’s a different liquor license in NJ) could now allow “carry-out” service. That was verboten just three months ago. Is that a regulation that was truly ever needed? What is it about a pandemic that makes it more urgent that I can get a beer to go? I’m happy to see that regulation fall off the books—even temporarily—but it just illustrates how pointless these regulations are and also illustrates how haphazardly they are being eased.
On the federal level, according to CBS News, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a statement that the agency “does not expect power plants, factories or other companies to meet environmental standards and reporting of pollution during this time —and it won’t pursue penalties if companies break the rules.”
I’m sure it could be argued that since most factories are going to be closed, that the EPA has little to worry about anyway, but if that were the case they wouldn’t have to suspend the regulation. By saying, during a life or death crisis—that mainly effects people’s ability to breath—that we don’t care what factories are pumping out into the environment, then why do we care at any other time?
It would seem that if these regulations were so necessary, then some more deliberation should be needed before they are just discarded. But in most cases, there was no debate, no long-term studies, not even much consultation with the various legislatures. Governors, Mayors, and the President just suspended them by fiat.
Just about daily someone will talk about our “new normal” that will be the outcome of all of the changes that COVID-19 has wrought upon us. Well lets hope that the upside to our new normal is that these needless regulations that we have had to live under stay relaxed in-perpetuity.