What is our ‘Ultimate Resource’ in battling the coronavirus?

Bob Luddy, one of North Carolina’s leading lights and a longtime friend of the John Locke Foundation, has a great piece in The American Spectator today. Entitled “Government Is No Match for the Coronavirus,” Luddy’s article makes it plain to see where our answers to this coronavirus are going to flow from: “ultimately it is the private sector that will provide the solutions.”

Luddy would know. Read his biography and see.

I enjoin you to read his entire article. Here’s a teaser:

We all know that any time we expect service from the government, it will be slow and painful as compared to the private sector, which is mostly fast and courteous. In spite of some minor shortages, due to hoarding, the private sector is supplying us with gas, food, prepared meals, medical supplies, and health care.

The coronavirus crisis must cause us to rethink government. The Trump administration has restricted new regulation and reduced arcane strictures, which has resulted in a booming economy. It is absolutely true that most private industry can be trusted because the alternative for poor or unscrupulous providers is failure. Private industry can be sued and suffer financial decline, unlike government, which simply demands more money for poor performance. Business or individuals that commit fraud are subject to civil and criminal penalties.

The federal government spends 21 percent of our national GDP. All federal spending comes from business and citizens. This restricts their ability to allocate those funds to their families and to spur economic growth. American entrepreneurs are excellent capital allocators, creating the jobs and technologies that keep us safe and allow a very high standard of living for most citizens. …

[T]hink of Walmart now offering ultra-low-cost medical services, along with a host of competitors, including CVS and Walgreens. Gas is very cheap because of our fracking industry. An abundance of high-quality food is available from thousands of grocery stores, restaurants, and now there is home delivery from many sources.

Why people, not government, are the ultimate resource in this fight

My research brief today takes its inspiration from the work of economists Julian Simon and Adam Smith to expect greater contributions from the private sector in this fight. It’s a matter of numbers:

[R]emember, politicians and bureaucrats are just a tiny subset of people in society. They represent only a small slice of all the knowledge and ingenuity we can draw upon in this fight. The more of this greater, societywide knowledge that gets devoted to addressing a societal problem, the faster solutions will be found.

This prediction is based on the insights of the late, great economist Julian Simon. He saw people as the “Ultimate Resource,” thanks to the power of human imagination. The more minds, the better. He wrote:

“The main fuel to speed the world’s progress is our stock of knowledge, and the brake is our lack of imagination. … The ultimate resource is people — skilled, spirited, and hopeful people who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit, and so, inevitably, for the benefit of us all.”

Knowing this, one of the best thing government leaders can do is to enable, not discourage, and not get in the way of all the other knowledgeable and ingenious people out there thinking about how to deal with COVID-19 issues.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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