Free market essential in pandemic response

Phyllis Hunsinger

The coronavirus pandemic has demanded worldwide attention for months. As this is written, draconian actions implemented by states and the federal government remain in place to stem the spread of this unseen enemy. But when the virus no longer poses a deadly threat and there’s time to reflect on what happened, the free market will emerge as the true victor.

Examples of free market reactions to the outbreak abound. Private enterprises have geared up to make tests kits, ventilators and protective gear that includes millions of face masks. Private enterprises have provided pickups and deliveries of all kinds of essential items. Using technology developed by private enterprises, businesses and schools have reconfigured their operations to continue to deliver services. More doctors use technology to communicate while maintaining social distancing.

The beauty of a free market is individuals quickly react to changing circumstances even as cumbersome  bureaucracies move slower in their endeavors. Moreover, government regulations slow down any process.

A review of history proves this to be the case. Smallpox was eradicated when Edward Jenner discovered the vaccine.  Louis Pasteur was responsible for a number of medical discoveries, including the cholera vaccine. Alexander Glenny perfected a process that led to the development of a vaccine against diphtheria. Maurice Ralph Hilleman is credited with developing more than 40 vaccines in his lifetime. Jonas Salk is famous for developing the polio vaccine. The point: Individuals and groups of individuals wield power to make life-changing discoveries in a free-market environment. 

The heavy hand of government often gets in the way of solving problems. The latest outbreak offers numerous examples.

Until government regulations were waived to allow private companies to develop test kits, government-supplied kits were insufficient in number and accuracy. Lawyers and bureaucrats had to loose their grip on doctors governing patient privacy to allow doctors to care for patients through technology. Some states have finally relaxed the restrictions allowing doctors to practice across state lines. Public law 105-33 created critical access hospitals in rural areas limiting the number of beds to 25. That government regulation was waived as well.
An outcry from bureaucrats was heard when doctors wanted to use drugs approved for other uses, but not for use against COVID-19. Some of those restrictions were lifted. Consider the time wasted in addressing life-saving issues because government regulations stood in the way.

The United States boasts the greatest health care industry in the world. But it will be critical to limit the scope of bureaucracy so the country will be better prepared for the next medical crisis.

A cure or vaccine or both will emerge from the difficult times coronavirus has caused. And when that happens, the solutions will be provided by individuals and groups of individuals operating in a free market.

Phyllis Hunsinger is founder of the Freedom & Responsibility Education Enterprise Foundation in Grand Junction. The foundation provides resources to students and teachers in Western Colorado to promote an understanding of economics, financial literacy and free enterprise. For more information, visit www.free-dom.us.com. A former teacher, principal and superintendent, Hunsinger wrote “Down and Dirty: A ‘How To’ Math Book.” Reach Hunsinger by email at phyllis@free-dom.us.com.