I thought I was done talking about Obama’s Chamber of Commerce speech. But the Mises Institute’s Jeffrey Tucker has tackled another goofy element in it. The president claimed that government regulators “make our lives better” and “often spark competition and innovation.” In his example, the government’s “modest” regulatory targets imposed “a couple decades ago” allegedly mean that “a typical fridge now costs half as much and uses a quarter of the energy that it once did — and you don’t have to defrost.”
One wonders what profit-seeking folks like the Rockefellers and Carnegies, Edisons and Fords did without regulatory impetus. Hide the innovations people are happy to pay for until regulators come along and force entrepreneurs to make money from them?
As it happens, there’s a history to refrigerators. Patents for auto-defrosting fridges were first issued in 1928, and by 1951 these fridges were making their way into homes. In the 1970s they proliferated. As Tucker explains, this is normal market practice. “A company found a way to package [frost-free freezers] as a luxury good available in some markets. Another company saw the advance and emulated it. . . .”
Nobody had to point guns at fridge makers.
In “Blow Hot, Blow Cold,” Robert H. Miller reveals the usual way government “helps progress” — by struggling to rebuild what it previously destroyed. Example? The electric-generating windmill industry that the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Act so handily suppressed.
Progress is built into markets. Governments? Not so much.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.