Libertarians are usually just mean teenage boys trapped in the bodies of grown men, or toddlers yelling “mine mine mine,” so imagine my surprise when I learned one had actually done a mature thing. When researcher Alex Tabarrok found that data didn’t match his invisible hand of the free market hypotheses, and even contradicted the stated goals of his powerful financial backers, he published the study anyway.
Tabarrok and a grad student sought to prove the foundational Republican tenant that government regulations were bad for business, but they couldn’t. Wait, you mean letting pig farmers spray toxic poop in the air isn’t necessary for economic growth? We can demand chemical manufactures not pollute the planet and still have jobs? We don’t need to go back to child labor, 14 hour workdays, and daily worksite maimings? Like, whoa, man.
Sarcasm aside, the most mind blowing thing is that in a world where we all have confirmation bias, a study that showed unprofitable facts was released by someone who is a self avowed lifelong anti regulation Libertarian. Tabarrok’s conclusions didnt cause him to actually question his long held Ayn Rand worship though, he just thinks we need to look elsewhere when seeking solutions to free market success.
Still, I want to give him some props. Tabarrok directs the Center for Study of Public Choice, funded by the rich, powerful Kochs and their allies, with a stated goal of rolling back regulations. Using new software to analyze every Federal regulation Tabarorrok was sure he’d find a correlation between regulations and slowed growth and make his bosses super happy. Whoops. Nothing.
According to Tabarrok:
“I was pretty surprised that we just kept coming up with nothing…I’m a free-market type of person, so it wouldn’t have at all surprised me to find that government regulation is causing decline in dynamism. Ideologically, it fits my priors of the way I would see the world, so, yes, I was expecting to find something.”
They couldn’t find any parallels even in heavily regulated industry, even after they tried two additional methods.
Showing how hard it is to let go of our own beliefs, Tabarrok won’t be abandoning his Libertarian fantasy, even though he was raised up in the comforting arms of Canadian Universal healthcare. Isn’t that ironic? At least he can admit Trump’s hyper focus on rolling back federal regulations won’t fix the decline in growth. Tabarrok is clinging to his dreams though. He thinks the problem may be state and local regulations. You know, like the town zoning ordinances that keep an industrial waste dump out of the protected wetlands in your backyard.
Tabarrok says he is open to explore the data showing corporate concentration is to blame for slowed growth, but won’t admit the provable causes of that. After all his searching for correlations, Tabarrok is ignoring the most glaring one. Data does show a rise in monopolies directly matches the decline in dynamism. A direct result of Reagan’s deregulation. Tabarrok doesn’t want to support anti trust enforcement, which can fix the rise in monopolies. Oh well, small victories.
By Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca