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Who’s Who?

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

In the name of protecting consumers, government raises the safety standards that must be met by all firms supplying good X.

Members of ideological group A, along with executives of the regulated firms, complain that this regulation – being costly – discourages the supply of X and, thereby, harms the very people that the regulation is ostensibly meant to help.  These opponents of the regulation accuse its proponents of naively assuming that the regulation’s consequences will be only those happy ones trumpeted by the government officials who impose the regulation.

Members of ideological group B, along with the government officials who impose the regulation, deny that any such unintended negative consequences will result.  These proponents of the regulation accuse its opponents of telling hysterical scare stories meant only to frighten the public into rejecting common-sense safety rules that no legitimate supplier will have any trouble meeting and that will clearly promote the public good.

Pop quiz: who in Virginia is in ideological group B, and who in A, as regards the State’s new regulation that raises the safety standards that must be met by abortion clinics (“Va. board approve strict abortion clinic rules,” April 13)?

Answer: proponents of the regulation are conservatives who do not trust market forces, in this case, to supply optimal levels of safety.  Opponents of the regulation are “Progressive” leftists who, in this case, do trust the market to adequately supply safety.  These “Progressives” refuse to judge the consequences of this regulation by its officially advertised purposes, and they insist that the higher costs imposed by the regulation will have the unseen ill consequence of reducing the supply brought to market by the regulated firms.  Consumers will suffer.

Curiously, for both conservatives and “Progressives,” abortion clinics are utterly unique firms that are exempt from the political and economic forces that are believed to govern all other entities.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030