Free the Innovators

Chronicle columnist Chris Tomlinson correctly chastises those who predict that we are running out of resources.

Smart business people make their fortunes solving problems for a reasonable price. The key is innovation.

What Tomlinson doesn’t say is that innovators must be free in order to solve problems. An innovator is someone who questions the conventional wisdom and challenges the status quo. He has ideas that others don’t, but if he isn’t free to act on those ideas, then they are worthless.

Government regulations–which Tomlinson frequently supports–are the biggest impediment to innovation. Regulations essentially force individuals and businesses to accept the status quo. Indeed, regulators have a vested interest in protecting the status quo–it’s proven.

In contrast, the innovative is unproven, and a regulator could get into trouble for unleashing an unproven idea upon the market. Consumers would have to make decisions, and allowing individuals to act on their own judgment is what regulations are intended to prevent.

Consider occupational licensing as an example. Suppose an individual wishes to offer a service limited to simple plumbing repairs, such as replacing the fill valve in toilets or unclogging drains. For him to legally do this in Texas, he would need a license from the state giving him permission to offer these services. No matter how competent he is at these services, he is prohibited from acting as he thinks best. And so are the consumers who might judge him competent to perform the desired services.

When an innovator is denied the freedom to act on his ideas, those ideas become useless. They cannot move mankind forward, and progress grinds to a halt.

In recent years, we’ve seen what innovators can do in the oil industry, even with their hands tied. Imagine what they could do if they were free of government regulations. And that applies not just to the energy industry, but to every other industry, including education and infrastructure. If we really want to encourage and promote human flourishing, we must free the innovators.

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