BALFOUR: No, Gov. Cooper, the economy is not a light bulb controlled by a ‘dimmer switch’

RALEIGH – Governor Roy Cooper thinks people that gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving must not love and care about them, on account of COVID risks. The governor also thinks he can merely turn the economy on and off like a switch. A dimmer switch to be more accurate.

He is wrong, and painfully so, according to Brian Balfour of the Civitas Institute. Balfour explains just how wrong Cooper is, and why, in this common sense piece:

“Gov. Roy Cooper has repeatedly referred to his economic lockdown strategy as a “dimmer switch approach” to gradually reopening the state’s economy.

Presumably, Cooper uses the analogy to compare how a dimmer switch controls the amount of voltage flowing to a light bulb in order to control the brightness of the light with the flip of a switch, to his ability to control the amount of economic activity in the state’s economy via his proclamations of moving between “phases” of reopening.

Such a comparison, however, reveals a severe lack of understanding of how an economy works. Moreover, it’s also a recipe to inflict significant and lasting damage to our state’s economy.

For starters, the economy is more like a complex ecosystem rather than a light bulb.

Indeed, a light bulb is consciously designed to accomplish one main purpose, and its parts fitted together to achieve that objective.

The economy, in contrast, is comprised of a complex, constantly evolving web of transactions between buyers and sellers. Elaborate and intricate patterns of production and exchange involving human beings emerge, based on the multitude of their individual preferences and desires, not according to one centralized plan. These patterns are constantly in flux.

Unlike a light bulb, which is made to accomplish a singular goal or purpose, the economy does not have one goal or purpose, but billions of them. Moreover, economic actors are forward-looking, which makes uncertainty and risk a significant calculus – especially on the part of entrepreneurs.

This complex process is not something just waiting for an increase or decrease of voltage from a flip of a switch to increase or decrease activity, like a light bulb.


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