May 13, 2020
By Christina Sandefur and Jon Riches

The damage of the global coronavirus pandemic extends beyond the health and lives of people; it also shows up in the shuttering of stores, restaurants, salons, theaters, ballparks, and breweries ordered by many state governors. Americans are left sitting at home, waiting for a way out of the crisis. Economists are warning that coronavirus lockdowns could result in nearly one out of every three Americans losing their jobs. The resulting havoc has stopped a once-surging economy in its tracks.

Americans have recovered from disasters before, and the key to recovery is entrepreneurship. As America begins the process of reopening, officials at all levels of government will be looking for ways to get Americans back to work. But helping businesses and reviving employment does not require government growth; it requires respect for the freedom of individuals to create, innovate, and build. And that requires government restraint. It requires recognition of the fact that individuals should be free to earn an honest living, unobstructed by government unless their activities cause harm to others. It requires a presumption of freedom.

Unfortunately, existing laws and regulations, many of which have been temporarily lifted in order to help people address the problems caused by the pandemic, contradict these principles and create obstructions to the economic opportunity necessary to revive the American economy.

Fortunately, there are solutions. In a new policy brief published with the Mercatus Center, we outline three state-level reforms that can unleash the power of American entrepreneurship and encourage innovation: the Right to Earn a Living Act, which requires governments to prove some real risk to the public before it can restrict entrepreneurs’ freedom; the Permit Freedom Act, which protects permit seekers from ambiguous and abusive processes; and the Home-Based Business Fairness Act, which prevents government from outlawing a business simply because it operates out of someone’s home.

Many Americans are willing and able to work now, and others want to return to work as soon as it is safe. By embracing a presumption of freedom, these economic reforms can help ensure that government does not become a barrier to their success.

You can learn more about the Goldwater Institute’s comprehensive plan to give Americans the freedom to recover here.

Christina Sandefur is the Executive Vice President and Jon Riches is the Director of National Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

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