April 14, 2020
As the President assembles a large advisory group to determine how to get the economy going again, the simplicity of the answer is astounding. With all its critics, one thing businesses know how to do is work! Just tell them what the safety regulations are and leave it to them!
No, this is not just a quip. I’m serious. After working with small businesses for well over three decades, with all their problems, one thing they know how to do is work hard.
They already know how to start things, re-start things, hire, solve problems, and create products and services for customers. Mr. President, you and your task force don’t need to do anything but provide money. They will do the rest themselves almost intuitively.
The concept is not new. Adam Smith called it the invisible hand. He described the natural economy of business owners and tradesmen to automatically do what it takes to create products and trade. His book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” written way back in 1759, was more of a discovery than a contrived principle. People act in their own and their community’s self-interest. When customers’ needs are met, the businessperson serves the needs and wants of the customer, and serves his own desire to keep a few shekels for investment in the next day. This principle of social economics is based on human behavior and is innate in all successful businesspeople.
So, getting back to work is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn, you can get back on and ride again and again. Let them do it!
Sure, some phasing or restrictions will need to be thought through. But the consideration on the restrictions is all science and probability. We may need to restrict gatherings for a while longer. We may need to wear masks. We may need to take and record our temperature twice a day. Whatever science thinks.
So, determine the distancing guidelines, mask wearing, temperature testing, touching guidelines, and let each business figure out how to implement it just as they do for other safety issues. They already know how to comply with OSHA. If we can deal with OCHA, we can deal with Covid rules.
After all, each business owner must determine if they can make a profit based on the rules imposed on them. Then they will try to innovate to meet the rules. We will have millions of instant innovators on all these fronts once we know what the rules are.
This approach makes so much more sense than getting a commission together to figure out how to restart business. If a commission is such a good idea, let’s have one on how to ride a bicycle too!
Give us the rules and let us decide. It is the power and magic of our free enterprise system. Mr. President, you have done a good job thinking of business during the shutdown, but let us run our businesses, as we know how to do it better than you could ever do from Washington.