Unleashing innovation

Business leading recovery, new podcast episode, and 5 more links worth your time

When I think about economic growth, my first thought is not government stimulus checks. While government assistance may be vital in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard for me to imagine a recovery that is driven by politicians or policymakers. Instead, I think of entrepreneurs and creative people who identify new opportunities in a landscape that has changed.

What’s going to happen next with the virus is unclear. We do know that we can’t press pause on the economy until it’s eradicated. But where do we go from here? What will the new normal of work and business look like? How do we ensure that the people who are the economy are free to bring it back to life?

What works

Some weeks ago, we highlighted examples of innovative responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Adam Thierer, my guest on our most recent episode of the Civil Squared podcast, says in his new book that “the freedom to innovate is essential to human betterment for each of us individually and for civilization as a whole.” From drone delivery of medical equipment in North Carolina to 3D printing of personal protective equipment in New York, we have certainly seen plenty of evidence during recent months of the kind of creativity that improves lives.

Regulations. What are they good for?

But you might be surprised to learn that many of these innovations faced regulatory challenges. For that drone delivery in North Carolina to occur, the FAA had to provide an exception to a longstanding regulation.

Because circumstances demanded quick action, authorities made exceptions to or suspended hundreds of regulations, in some cases to help save lives. One nonprofit, Americans for Tax Reform, has been keeping track of all the regulations in the United States that have been suspended as a result of the pandemic and the list is long (see #1 in our 5 links below).

Trey Malone, an expert on food regulation and associate professor at Michigan State University, recently joined us on Civil Squared Live for a conversation about food shortages during the COVID-19 crisis. We discussed regulations that affect the food supply chain. We all want safe food, but do we really need tens of thousands of regulations on the production of beer?

“It’s time to build”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Marc Andreessen, a well-known entrepreneur and investor, blamed the shortages and challenges we faced on a “smug complacency” and a “satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build” (see link #5 below). In the United States, we don’t just lack a vaccine for the virus, according to Andreessen. We also lack the desire for an environment where developing vaccines and creative solutions is encouraged.

He writes, “we need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things.” Do we want regulation more than we want economic growth and human creativity? I certainly hope not, but it’s pretty tough to argue with his point when I now know that the only way a beer makes it into my hands is if it first clears 80,000 hurdles to get there.

If we really do want to build and let innovators lead the way with entrepreneurial solutions (like those we’ve seen recently), we’ll need to start cutting the red tape to give them a path to do that.

5 more links worth your time

  1. List: Regulations Waived to Help Fight COVID-19, Americans for Tax Reform – Isabelle Morales of Americans for Tax Reform has been trying to keep a list of rules and regulations that have been suspended as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. As of June 19th, the list stood at 670.
  2. After pandemic ends, U.S. needs Recovery Authority to speed economic rebound, USA Today – Philip K. Howard of Common Good summarizes the ways that “cutting red tape” during the crisis has encouraged innovation, and he argues we need this kind of creativity to continue beyond COVID-19.
  3. Make ‘Temporary’ Regulatory Relief Permanent After the Pandemic Passes, Reason – Red tape hurts innovation during crises, but it presents an obstacle we should remove during non-crisis times.
  4. In defense of Big Pharma, the innovation engine we love to hate, Fast Company – A critic of the pharmaceutical industry acknowledges that, when it comes to developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, government cannot compete with private industry.
  5. It’s Time to Build, Marc Andreessen – In this widely-shared essay, venture capitalist and famed software engineer Andreessen argues that both the left and the right in the United States have done little to support creation and innovation through their policies.

p.s. If you’ve got a political, ideological, or philosophical issue you’ve been considering, email me at jennifer@civilsquared.org and I’ll work with my team to put together a list of articles, issues, and interesting points of view to share with you and others.

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