COVID-19

Articles and publications written by the CCC about the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Responsible businesses need COVID-19 liability shields

As customers slowly trickle back into stores and workers punch back in at reopened businesses, there’s one thought on all our minds: caution.

Protective plastic shields and screens, face masks and gloves are a new reality, and it is a small price to pay for coming out of state-mandated lockdowns.

But months into the all-encompassing coronavirus pandemic, there is another cost many entrepreneurs and administrators fear: future legal bills. 

While voluntary precautions will be plentiful in every situation where a customer, student or worker is getting back out in the world, the nature of the virus means it is almost certain that someone, somewhere, will catch the virus. That means huge potential legal ramifications if a person wants to hold an institution or business liable.

In this April 15, 2020, file photo, two people walk past a closed sign at a retail store in Chicago.Nam Y. Huh, AP

There is already a demonstrable lawsuit epidemic. Between March and May of this year, more than 2,400 COVID-related lawsuits have been filed in federal and state courts. These cases are likely to blow up our legal system as we know it, elevating accusations of blame and clogging every level of our courts that will keep judges and lawyers busy for some time.

That is why the idea of a liability shield for schools, businesses and organizations has taken up steam.

In a recent letter to congressional leaders, 21 governors, all Republicans, called on both houses of Congress to include liability protections in the next round of coronavirus relief.

“To accelerate reopening our economies as quickly and as safely as possible, we must allow citizens to get back to their livelihoods and make a living for their families without the threat of frivolous lawsuits,” the governors wrote.

While a liability shield will not give cover to institutions that are negligent or reckless, and reasonably so, it would ensure that blatantly frivolous or unfounded lawsuits are not allowed to go forward.

For the average entrepreneur or school administrator, that would help alleviate some of the worries that are keeping many of these institutions closed or severely restricted.

No one wants customers or workers catching the virus in these environments, but creating 100% COVID-free zones would be next to impossible, a fact many scientists are ready to acknowledge. That’s why state governors, lawmakers and business leaders want to ensure that our states can open back up, but be cognizant of the risk. 

There is still plenty of uncertainty related to the transmission of the virus, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out, and that is why a liability shield — at least for those who follow health and safety recommendations — makes sense. Businesses and schools that willfully endanger citizens through negligence though, should rightfully be held liable.

This is the idea currently being debated in the nation’s capital, as Senate Republicans have stated they want a liability shield to avoid a lawsuit contagion.

Unfortunately, the idea is likely to be mired in a toxic partisan death spiral. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York decries such a plan as “legal immunity for big corporations” and reporting on the topic has resembled such. 

But these protections would most benefit small businesses and schools that follow health recommendations and still find themselves the subject of lawsuits. 

It is no secret that many attorneys see a potential payday in the wake of the pandemic. There are already many law firms pitching “coronavirus lawyers” and many have reassigned entire teams and departments to focus on providing legal advice and counsel for COVID-19 cases. 

And much like in consumer fraud cases before the pandemic, a favorite tool of coronavirus tort lawyers will be large class-action lawsuits that seek huge payouts. These are the cases that usually end up lining the pockets of legal firms instead of legitimately harmed plaintiffs, as a recent Jones Day report finds. And that does not even speak to whether or not these cases have merit or not.

In debating the next level of pandemic relief for Americans, including a liability shield would be a great measure of confidence for responsible and cautious businesses and institutions in our country. 

Whether it is the local community college or bakery, we must all recognize that assigning blame for virus contraction will be a frequent topic of concern. But those accusations must be founded, and be the result of outright harmful and negligent behavior, not just because students are back in class or customers are once again buying cakes.

A liability shield for the responsible citizens of our country is not only a good idea but necessary.

Originally published in the Detroit Times here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The WTO is Missing In Action on COVID

According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s latest report to the United Nationès High-level Political Forum (HLPF), global trade will fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as a consequence of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the decline will exceed the collapse brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, and nearly all regions will suffer double-digit declines in trade volumes in 2020.

The prediction is grim but not surprising. The world was simply not prepared for the pandemic, and, while a lot can be said about whether opting for lockdowns was a reasonable decision or not, what matters more now is the logic behind rushed economic policies. International trade implies interdependence and trust, and, therefore, unilateral withdrawal from a trading relationship is damaging and costly.

More specifically, this has to do with export restrictions on medical supplies and food. In the midst of the pandemic, 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO member countries banned or limited the export of face masks, protective gear, gloves and other goods. In a similar fashion, 15 countries globally made it harder or impossible to export food.

In the said report, the WTO draws attention to the chaotic nature of those trade regulations and lack of international cooperation and coordination. Most countries didn’t notify the WTO of their intentions to restrict trade, and this tells us two things. First, the WTO needs urgent reform to justify its institutional necessity. Second, regardless of how integrated and globalised the world might seem, true power remains with nation-states.

The good news is that the WTO is due to elect its new director-general, and some candidates seem to have a good grasp of what needs to be done to reshape the organisation. One of the frontrunners Amina Mohamed, a 58-year-old minister and former WTO chair, argues that “the [WTO] rulebook needs to be upgraded because of the concerns that are being expressed about the rules not being fit for purpose.”

The persistence of nation-statism is undeniable, and the pandemic has reinforced some of its key traits such as self-sufficiency. Being able to stand on two feet instead of waiting for others to give you a hand and, generally, being concerned only with oneself has become a protectionist mantra during the pandemic. Changing the prevalent narrative in favour of more cooperation and independence is one of the biggest challenges the new WTO DG will face.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. The COVID-19 situation has revealed that a number of essential goods, such as ventilators or medical-style face masks had previously been burdened with tariffs. Removing many of these trade barriers has been helpful during the crisis, yet these measures are equally unnecessary outside the realms of the Novel Coronavirus. This is a positive shift and the one that needs to be endorsed by the WTO and all its members individually.

The WTO’s impact has been consistently declining over time, and the pandemic exposed its weakest sides: lack of coordination. The coronavirus crisis is not the first and definitely not the last challenge we face, but whatever happens, we should preserve free trade at all costs. The WTO is a much needed organisation, but it has to change.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

For more housing and less real estate havoc: rezone and dezone

Would help cities avoid a post-COVID commercial real estate disaster while also addressing the pre-COVID housing crunch

Un-zoning or rezoning office towers would be a way to make the overall real estate market more dynamic.

The economic havoc from COVID-19 has made the 2008 financial crisis look like a hiccup. Along with airlines and live entertainment, commercial real estate may end up being one of the hardest-hit sectors. Businesses we rely on in good times, both large and small, are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. Retail locations, restaurants and commercial office space will become vacant and there is no guarantee demand will come all the way back to fill the void.

Part of our new reality is that millions of Canadians have seen the viability of working from home, or at least working from the office at a significantly reduced level. E-commerce giant Shopify announced last month it would become a remote-by-default workplace, with CEO Tobi Lutke going so far as to say that “office-centricity is over.” So long as productivity can be maintained, other corporate entities are likely to follow Shopify’s lead and forego the expensive overhead of downtown office space. That means a potentially significant increase in office vacancies, especially in places like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

If demand does wane, firms that own office towers in major Canadian cities will be left with empty space and hemorrhaging costs. What to do? Un-zoning or rezoning such spaces would be a way to make the overall real estate market more dynamic.

At the moment, it is very difficult and time-consuming to navigate the zoning restrictions that prevent firms from converting commercial spaces into residential units. Toronto, for example, has thousands of pages of zoning rules and regulations that limit how space can be used. Applying for a space to be rezoned is onerous and takes a minimum of nine months to be completed and reviewed. In order to apply to have the city rezone a property from commercial to residential, the applicant often needs to provide: an archeological assessment, a services and facility study, an environmental impact study, an energy strategy, a heritage impact statement, a natural heritage impact study, their planning rationale, their public consultation report and a transportation impact study — on top of their own formal plans. Un-zoning or rezoning swaths of commercial space without requiring this regulatory rigamarole could be a way for local governments to help industry survive the worst of the economic downfall.

Relaxing zoning for most of these commercial real estate spaces would also ease pressures on the supply side of the housing market. In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, the supply of housing has seldom kept up with demand, which is why residential vacancy rates in these major cities are usually at or below one per cent. In Toronto, the Toronto Real Estate Board has shown how demand has generally outpaced supply by tracking average home prices. The average price of a home in Toronto has tripled since 2005. Toronto’s inability to build new housing stock hurts renters more with each passing day. In January, it was forecast that rents in Toronto would rise seven per cent in 2020, well above the rate of inflation — though of course now all bets are off.

Rather than insist that commercial real estate sit empty, rezoning could: provide flexibility in terms of occupancy, increase the housing stock to better keep up with demand, and eventually put downward pressure on home and rental prices citywide — not to mention reduce the economic hit to the owners of such space.

What makes this solution even more attractive is that un-zoning and rezoning existing buildings would be tricky to oppose. New developments in major cities like Toronto undergo months, if not years, of review and community consultation. At every turn, NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) activists roadblock housing developments for such dubious reasons as a building’s height, shadow or footprint.

In the Long Branch neighbourhood of Toronto, NIMBY activists pushed to block the splitting of a residential lot because it would “threaten their community character and trees.” In the much-coveted Yonge and Lawrence area, the creation of eight semi-detached units was opposed because it threatened the community’s character by being 16 centimetres “too tall” and 13 centimetres “too wide,” according to the zoning bylaw. Obstructionism is so bad in Vancouver that the only way to build at a large scale (in the thousands of units) is on Indigenous land, beyond the reach of city council, which is too easily captured by NIMBYs.

Luckily for housing realists, i.e., those who understand that major Canadian cities need to increase supply, rezoning existing buildings is largely immune from these roadblocks. Buildings that have already been built are not a new imposition. All we have to do is let people move into them.

Giving rezoning and dezoning a serious look would help cities avoid a post-COVID commercial real estate disaster while also addressing the pre-COVID housing crunch. This is a win-win scenario — if only city councils have the courage and imagination to make it happen.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Outdated regulations are hampering a coronavirus cure

The federal government’s approval process for medicines, treatments, and vaccines is broken, and red tape at the Food and Drug Administration is to blame.

FDA bureaucrats are stonewalling the search for cures for COVID-19 and other illnesses by forcing drug companies to conduct expensive and misleading testing on dogs. The FDA has gone so far as to force this upon drug producers even when it is not necessary, when efficient alternatives are available, and it has punished companies for challenging this mandate.

One company had a drug (now a potential COVID-19 treatment) held up for years and lost tens of millions in stock value because it refused to conduct an unnecessary $750,000 test on dogs after it had already run extensive animal and human testing. The company has argued that “[t]he animal studies the FDA demands … have been considered routine in the pharmaceutical industry for decades, despite the growing body of evidence discrediting such studies’ scientific value.”

The FDA’s current dog-testing mandate for drug companies traces back to 1938, in the days when doctors regularly performed ice-pick lobotomies to treat mental illness and pregnancy tests were done by injecting women’s urine into frogs. Luckily, medicine has come a long way. But even now, although companies may choose to conduct limited animal testing at times, it’s widely acknowledged that animal testing of human drugs is often wasteful and unnecessary.

The National Institutes of Health, for example, writes that “petri dish and animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies.” The NIH, the FDA, and others estimate that over 90% of drugs that pass government-mandated animal tests fail in humans because they are ineffective or dangerous, costing companies billions of dollars and decades of lost time.

Recognizing this waste, in recent years the pharmaceutical industry has increased research & development spending while also decreasing animal testing by using cutting-edge technologies such as organs-on-chips and computer models that better mimic human drug responses.

The problem is that the FDA often won’t allow these new technologies to be used, even though it claims to support them and has the authority to do so. The FDA’s decade-old ”nonbinding” guidance document that includes dog tests also states, “You can use an alternative approach if the approach satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations.”

Yet, as the Government Accountability Office and others have documented, the intransigent FDA has refused to allow companies to use these high-tech tools to fulfill regulatory requirements. Instead, the FDA treats its nonbinding, outdated guidance as a regulation and forces drug makers to pay for unscientific dog tests that field experts, doctors, and scientists deem misleading and wasteful.

The tests demanded by the FDA cost millions and entail force-feeding puppies experimental drugs every day for up to a year, providing no pain relief, and then killing and dissecting the dogs. Approximately one-third of all dog testing in the United States is done to fulfill useless and burdensome government regulations such as these.

These slow and misleading tests also cause unnecessary delays that drive up the cost of drug development and, in turn, medical care. Estimates are that each day a drug is kept off the market due to FDA bureaucracy costs companies between $1 million and $13 million in sales. The GAO has also reported about how safe and effective medical products have been kept from consumers because of FDA’s unnecessary animal testing demands and that “manufacturers may face backlash from animal rights groups and shareholders if animal testing is conducted.” The FDA’s dog-testing red tape is creating liability, not mitigating it.

Taxpayers who pay the FDA’s bills want reform, too. According to a May 2020 national poll, 67% of taxpayers — 73% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats — support ending the FDA’s dog-testing mandate.

In the fight against COVID-19, President Trump has called on the FDA to “slash red tape like nobody’s ever done before.”

The FDA’s burdensome dog testing, which is not required by law and could be lifted at any time, has allowed dangerous drugs to reach patients and prevented safe ones from coming to market. FDA red tape can’t be allowed to hold patients, industry, and puppies hostage any longer.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

La faillite intellectuelle du “gastro-nationalisme”

A travers l’Europe, les protectionnistes du secteur alimentaire sont de retour. Avec l’excuse du COVID-19, ils prétendent que la concurrence commerciale internationale est un problème pour les producteurs nationaux. Dans plusieurs législations européennes, on propose d’imposer des quotas de produits locaux aux commerçants, dans d’autres ce sont des ministres qui font des appels au “patriotisme alimentaire”. C’est dans ces moments qu’il convient de rappeler à quel degré ce gastro-nationalisme est problématique.

Dans un article pour l’AGEFI Luxembourg, j’avais analysé les origines du mercantilisme, connu de nos jours sous le nom de protectionnisme. Par cet article, on aurait pu croire que cette pensée politique est d’origine française, i et qu’elle a ensuit été exporté à l’Union européenne à travers des mesures des subventions et standardisation des produits. Cependant, il s’avère que les exemples de protectionnisme sont présents dans tous les pays, y compris dans le monde anglo-saxon.

Les lois sur le maïs (Corn Laws) étaient un parfait exemple de protectionnisme au 19e siècle : les grands propriétaires fonciers conservateurs de Westminster ont décidé que le Royaume-Uni devait taxer fortement les céréales provenant de l’étranger, dans le but d’avantager les producteurs locaux. 

Le résultat de cette politique commerciale semble aller de soi : alors que les producteurs britanniques en profitaient, le prix des céréales a explosé dans les années 1830. Dès que la concurrence a été neutralisée, les grands propriétaires terriens ont pu augmenter les prix, ce qui a surtout nui aux classes ouvrières. Le 31 janvier 1849, par une loi votée en 1846, les résultats catastrophiques des Corn Laws sont enfin reconnus. Ils seront abrogés et les taxes à l’importation disparurent.

Remplacer le mot “maïs” ou “Royaume-Uni” par tout autre produit ou pays ne fera pas de différence sur la réalité des principes économiques : le protectionnisme ne fonctionne pas, il appauvrit les consommateurs et en particulier les plus pauvres.

Dans un reportage pour RTL Radio Luxembourg, l’eurodéputé Charles Goerens expliquait que si nos voisins décidaient d’appliquer les solutions des gastro-nationalistes, notre industrie laitière devrait réduire sa production de trois-quarts, ce qui reviendraient à la fin de l’agriculture dans le Grand-Duché. Malheureusement, ce message ne semble pas impressionner nos voisins français. Le ministre de l’Agriculture Didier Guillaume a appelé les Français “au patriotisme alimentaire” même si “la tomate française coûte plus cher”, titre RTL Radio France. Le ministre ne mâche pas ses mots dans le reste de ses déclarations sur la chaîne radio :

“Il faut que nos concitoyens achètent français. Il faut développer notre agriculture si on veut de la souveraineté alimentaire, de la souveraineté agricole. Mais comme c’est un peu plus cher, nous devons travailler afin d’être plus concurrentiels. L’agriculture française doit être compétitive. Les prix payés aux producteurs doivent être plus forts que ce qu’ils ne sont aujourd’hui.”

Depuis mars, le gouvernement français est en pourparlers avec les supermarchés du pays pour l’achat de produits frais locaux. En conséquence, les plus grandes chaînes de distribution françaises, comme Carrefour et E.Leclerc, ont transféré la quasi-totalité de leurs approvisionnements vers les exploitations agricoles locales.

D’autres pays sont allés plus loin que la France.

Le gouvernement polonais a dénoncé 15 transformateurs nationaux pour avoir importé du lait d’autres pays de l’UE au lieu de l’acheter à des agriculteurs polonais.

“Le patriotisme économique de ces entreprises suscite des inquiétudes”, a déclaré le gouvernement dans une circulaire qui est restée en ligne, même après la suppression de la liste des usines laitières ayant utilisé du lait étranger au premier trimestre 2020.

L’opposition vient de Berlin. Avant la vidéoconférence des ministres de l’agriculture d’il y quelques semaines, Julia Klöckner, ministre de l’agriculture allemande, a déclaré que la crise du Coronavirus soulignait l’importance du marché unique, et que les pays de l’UE devaient s’abstenir de mettre en œuvre des politiques protectionnistes pour aider leurs économies à se redresser.

“Les chaînes d’approvisionnement transfrontalières et la libre circulation des marchandises sont essentielles pour garantir la sécurité de l’approvisionnement aux citoyens. Et c’est pourquoi je mets en garde contre le “nationalisme de consommation”. Ce n’est qu’une force supposée qui s’efface rapidement. Nous ne devons pas mettre en péril les réalisations du marché intérieur”, dit la déclaration.

Du côté de l’Union européenne, il est intéressant de constater  que le commissaire du marché intérieur, Monsieur Thierry Breton, semble déterminé à s’opposer à tout mouvement protectionniste (du moins en dehors du cadre protectionniste déjà établi par l’Union elle-même). 

Bruxelles a lancé une procédure judiciaire contre la Bulgarie, après que son gouvernement ait imposé de nouvelles mesures aux commerçants, les obligeant à favoriser et à promouvoir les produits alimentaires nationaux, tels que le lait, le poisson, la viande et les œufs frais, le miel, les fruits et les légumes. Les détaillants sont également censés acheter 90% de leur lait et de leurs produits laitiers aux producteurs nationaux.

En dehors des considérations économiques, ces décisions produisent des  injustices sociales évidentes vis-à-vis des commerçants spécialisés. Si par exemple la Belgique obligeait les commerces de détails  de respecter des quotas, comment les magasins de spécialité polonaise pourraient perdurer? 

Héritier du mercantilisme, ce nouveau “gastro-nationalisme” est une fiction nationaliste qui démontre l’illettrisme économique de ses défenseurs . Il est essentiel que les personnes souhaitant défendre le bien-être de la population et des travailleurs se mettent en avant et défendent  le libre-échange et fassent valoir leurs points de vue.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Consumers from 3 Continents Say Bans in SA are Unjustified

London, UK: Consumers from countries affected especially strongly by COVID-19 struggle to understand the heavy-handed South African approach of banning alcohol, cigarette, and vape sales during the lockdowns, argues the Consumer Choice Center. These are the voices of consumers from three different continents sharing their views on South Africa’s current ban on tobacco sales:

Nazlıcan Kanmaz from Turkey: “Many people smoke in Turkey and the government is trying to disincentivize it through sin taxes that currently make up 85% of the price of a pack of cigarettes. It is a paternalistic approach, but still not as much as banning all tobacco products–such as in South Africa. Lockdowns are already quite stressful in Turkey as they are usually announced last minute, and I cannot imagine the stress levels of nicotine consumers if the government would enforce such an ill-informed paternalistic policy during a moment of global crisis.”

David Clement from Toronto, Canada: “In Canada, the government responded to COVID19 by expanding consumer choice, not limiting it. Provincial governments in Canada declared convenience stores (where nicotine products are purchased), liquor stores, and even cannabis stores essential businesses so they could meet consumer demand. South Africa would have been far better to approach the pandemic like Canada did, which was without heavy-handed bans.”

Andre Freo from Brazil: “When thinking about an efficient public policy, the positive externalities for society must be arguably greater than the destruction of value for the individual. In Brazil today, we see an unprecedented health crisis, but the respect for consumer choice and freedom prevails, even under the new reality that COVID-19 imposed on us. People are already suffering great losses in their personal and professional lives with the disease, the government should not impose another burden on society.”

Fred Roeder, Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, concludes: “We have at least six times as many COVID19 cases here in the UK compared to South Africa, but there was fortunately never a time where I was not allowed to buy vaping liquids or cigarettes in my local grocery store. Given the limitations, we experience during the lockdown, it would be even more difficult if the government would ban me from buying nicotine. South Africa’s approach towards nicotine and alcohol sales is an unparalleled overreach of government power in times of global lockdowns”.

Originally published here.


The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Johannesburg, Brasilia, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

How to Unfreeze the Economy

This is a post by a Guest Author
Disclaimer: The author’s views are entirely his or her own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the Consumer Choice Center.


While governments around the world have focussed on pursuing a ‘flatten the curve’ strategy to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, they have also had to pursue a simultaneous economic strategy. That economic strategy was an attempt to freeze the economy is place, until the medical strategy had succeeded, and then to unfreeze the economy.

Reasonable people can argue that different choices could have and should have been made. But here we are.

This is the single largest economic intervention in human history. The economic costs that have already been incurred are astronomical. What is going to happen next?

Well, one view is that when government release their populations from lockdown and quarantine that the economy will ‘snap back’. That we’ll go back to work and the economy will simply spring back to life as if we’d all just had a long holiday.

Some of my RMIT University colleagues and I are less optimistic.

We are firm believers in the power of markets to operate and humans to cooperate in the production of value. We have no doubt that entrepreneurs will be willing to experiment, creating new opportunities, business models and consumer goods. But …

The economy that emerges from the COVID-pandemic will be a lot smaller than the economy was just two months ago. Many of the patterns of economic production and cooperation will be broken or destroyed. Many of the entrepreneurial plans that were in place and unfolding are now totally disrupted.

The one thing that has not shrunk, however, is the regulatory state. If the economy was over-regulated and over-burdened by taxation just two months ago, imagine how much more the much smaller post-COVID economy will be over-regulated and overtaxed. Many government have relaxed some regulation and taxation to deal with the pandemic – but so much more needs to be done.

In our new book, Unfreeze: How to Create a High Growth Economy After the Pandemic, my colleagues and I set out why we shouldn’t be optimistic about the economy quickly recovering from the COVID pandemic and what government needs to do to facilitate not just a recovery from the crisis but how to restore our prosperity.

Sinclair Davidson is a professor of economics at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia and an Adjunct Economics Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Après cette crise, ne cédons pas au protectionnisme

Face à la crise du COVID-19, nous entendons de plus en plus d’appels en faveur d’une politique économique protectionniste. Cependant, cette politique est intellectuellement en faillite depuis des siècles et nuit au bien-être des consommateurs.

Au niveau politique, le COVID-19 nous a montré une chose : les positions politiques sont bien enlisées. Tous les bords politiques se sentent confirmés dans leurs visions du monde précédant cette crise. Les socialistes affirment que cette crise confirme que la sécurité sociale n’est pas assez développée. Pour les nationalistes, c’est la globalisation et l’ouverture des frontières qui a causé cette pandémie. Les fédéralistes européens pensent que la crise COVID-19 démontre l’importance de la  centralisation des décisions dans l’Union européenne. Enfin, les écologistes trouvent que la baisse drastique de la production permet une société plus propre et qu’il est possible de vivre avec beaucoup moins..

Comme tous ces groupes, les protectionnistes jouent leur propre jeu politique et affirment que non seulement il nous faut plus de droits de douane mais aussi qu’il faut “faire revenir” la production en Europe. 

Ils se plaignent de la dépendance européenne face à des pays comme la Chine ou l’Inde et que cette crise a montré l’intérêt de rapatrier des industries qu’ils jugent plus essentiels que d’autres. Les idées protectionnistes ont la particularité d’être représentées autant à l’extrême-gauche qu’à l’extrême-droite voir même au centre du spectre politique. Il s’avère que le protectionnisme est ancré dans notre esprit politique depuis des siècles.

Le colbertisme semble éternel

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, ministre des finances sous Louis XIV, s’était engagé dans une avalanche d’octroi de monopoles, de subventions de luxe et de privilèges de cartels, et avait mis en place un puissant système de bureaucratie centrale régenté par des fonctionnaires appelés intendants. Le rôle de ces derniers était de faire respecter le réseau de contrôles et de réglementations qu’il avait créé. 

Son système fonctionnait également à grand coups d’inspections, de recensements et de formulaires pour pouvoir identifier les citoyens qui auraient pu s’écarter des réglementations de l’État. Les Intendants ont utilisé un réseau d’espions et d’informateurs pour découvrir toutes les violations des restrictions et des réglementations du cartel. De plus, les espions se surveillaient les uns les autres. Les sanctions pour les violations allaient de la confiscation et la destruction de la production jugée “inférieure”, à de lourdes amendes, des moqueries publiques voir même l’interdiction d’exercer sa profession.

Colbert était aussi convaincu que le commerce international était un jeu à somme nulle. S’inspirant des idées du mercantilisme, il estimait que l’intervention de l’État était nécessaire pour assurer qu’il garde une plus grande partie des ressources à l’intérieur du pays. Le raisonnement est assez simple : pour accumuler de l’or, un pays doit toujours vendre plus de biens à l’étranger qu’il n’en achète. Colbert cherchait à construire une économie française qui vendait à l’étranger mais qui achetait sur le marché intérieur. L’ensemble des mesures économiques de Jean-Baptiste Colbert était connu sous le nom de “colbertisme”.

De nos jours, ce système est connu sous le nom de “protectionnisme”, et reste tout à fait courant dans la pensée politique. En Europe, nous avons abandonné cette philosophie économique (même si la Commission européenne accepte que certains Etats membres subventionnent leurs industries locales en cas de crise), mais vers l’extérieur, l’UE a maintenu trois catégories de mesures protectionnistes :

  1. Les taxes douanières par le tarif extérieur commun,
  2. Les normes de production qui imposent des coûts de convergences,
  3. Les subventions aux producteurs locaux, à travers la Politique Agricole Commune (PAC).

La question est de savoir si ces mesure protègent réellement l’économie européenne. S’il convient de retourner dans le temps pour expliquer les origines du protectionnisme, il faudrait également tirer quelques leçons du passé. Dans son Traité d’économie politique publié en 1841, l’économiste français Jean-Baptiste Say expliquait :

“L’importation des produits étrangers est favorable à la vente des produits indigènes ; car nous ne pouvons acheter les marchandises étrangères qu’avec des produits de notre industrie, de nos terres et de nos capitaux, auxquels ce commerce par conséquent procure un débouché. — C’est en argent, dira-t-on, que nous payons les marchandises étrangères. — Quand cela serait, notre sol ne produisant point d’argent, il faut acheter cet argent avec des produits de notre industrie ; ainsi donc, soit que les achats qu’on fait à l’étranger soient acquittés en marchandises ou en argent, ils procurent à l’industrie nationale des débouchés pareils.”

Considérer l’échange international, surtout dans une perspective de “déficit commercial”, comme un jeu à somme nulle, est erroné. L’idée qu’il faille faire revenir l’industrie en Europe, probablement à travers des mesures commerciales, est également fallacieuse. Il s’avère que la libéralisation des liens commerciaux est avantageux à la fois pour les pays exportateurs et ceux qui importent : les ressources entrant nous procurent la possibilité d’améliorer notre situation économique. 

L’acte commercial bénéficie aux deux acteurs et non à un seul. Croire que seul le vendeur est gagnant (car il gagne de l’argent) est une incompréhension économique grave.

Certes la crise du COVID-19 est très problématique, et nous voyons en effet une pénurie de certains matériaux médicaux. Ceci dit, produire des gants et masques en Europe ne sera pas viable économiquement et qui nous dit que les mêmes outils seront nécessaires pour la prochaine crise sanitaire ? Ceci nous montre encore une fois l’erreur fatale de penser qu’il serait possible d’organiser la société et son économie par une planification centrale gérée par l’Etat.

Tout comme le disait Jean-Baptiste Say dans ses oeuvres, pour (re)lancer l’activité économique, il faut enlever les mesures qui nous ralentissent, dont la bureaucratie excessive et l’excès de taxes. En d’autres termes, il s’agit de ne pas entraver les échanges mais plutôt permettre la multiplication des échanges.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Боротьба за вакцину від COVID-19

“Лікарі без кордонів” (фр. Medecins sans frontiers, MSF) неймовірно успішно захищають інтереси пацієнтів по всьому світу. Організація має зразковий досвід залучення лікарів на передових бойових зон, а також під час голодоморів та пандемій — допомагаючи тим пацієнтам, які залишилися самі та постраждали внаслідок руйнівних криз.

Під час епідемії еболи у Західній Африці 2014-2015 рр. MSF була провідною організацією боротьби за права пацієнтів та зробила набагато більше, ніж Всесвітня організація охорони здоров’я (ВООЗ), яка є бюрократичною і часто реагує занадто повільно. За це та попередні 48 років служби MSF потрібно аплодувати стоячи.

Однак їхнє нинішнє опозиційне ставлення до патентів на ліки від COVID-19, витікає з неправильного розуміння значення прав інтелектуальної власності для медичних інновацій.

MSF також проводить кампанію щодо доступу до лікарських засобів, яка спотворює реалії ринку ліків, закликаючи до рішень, які завдають шкоди науковим інноваціям. Кампанія “за доступ до основних лікарських засобів” хоче зробити лікарські засоби у країнах, що розвиваються, більш доступними, вирішуючи питання щодо ціни на ліки та прав інтелектуальної власності. На думку MSF, виробники та дослідники збагачуються за рахунок тих хто не може собі дозволити лікарські засоби.

MSF помиляється в тому, що права інтелектуальної власності та патенти перешкоджають інноваціям. Навпаки, саме вони дозволяють забезпечити прогрес у галузі медицини.

Десятки фармацевтичних компаній не тільки почали шукати вакцину проти Covid-19, але і залучили багато ресурсів для отримання мільйонів тестів. Вони також досліджують потенційні препаратами проти коронавірусної хвороби, і жертвують гроші та матеріали для покращення системи охорони здоров’я в усьому світі.

Насправді, благодійні зусилля фармацевтичних компаній вражають. Вони пропонують благодійну підтримку, в тому числі організаціям, які працюють з пацієнтами на місцях. Однак “Лікарі без кордонів” заявили, що не прийматимуть пожертв у формі лікарств від фармацевтичних компаній, а натомість купуватимуть їх за ринковими цінами. Донори MSF, ймовірно, будуть приголомшені дізнатись, що їхні пожертви витрачаються на ліки, які MSF могло б отримати безкоштовно.

У той час як фармацевтична індустрія також дуже піклується про доступ, нефункціональні системи охорони здоров’я, однак інфраструктура часто є бар’єром між пацієнтом та лікуванням чи вакциною. Ми повинні усвідомити, що благодійні дії можливі лише за умови заохочення права на отримання прибутку. Фармацевтичні компанії розробляють препарати, захищають свої винаходи та отримують прибуток. Якщо забрати патентні права, стимул до інновацій зникає, а рятувальні ліки, ціна створення яких приголомшливо велика, не потрапляють на ринок.

“Лікарі без кордонів” закликають не допустити заробляння на новому коронавірусі, ігноруючи при цьому значні благодійні пожертви, які допомагають зупинити цей вірус. Насправді, більшість зусиль витрачених на боротьбу з хворобою — це державно-приватні партнерства, як і у випадку з еболою.

Потрібно також пам’ятати, що позбавлення компаній можливості отримувати прибуток від ліків виключає стимули та ігнорує ризики, а також витрати на роботу над новим препаратом. Чи маємо ми право очікувати від працівників лабораторій безкоштовно приходити на роботу, коли з нею та з взаємодією з колегами пов’язано безліч ризиків?

Ідея так званих примусових ліцензій, яка фактично відбирає патент у виробника в одній країні та передає його іншій, може навіть ще більше затримати введення вакцини від COVID-19. Для виготовлення та доставки робочої вакцини потрібні ноу-хау та ланцюгові поставки. Сумнівно, чи вакцина, виготовлена ​​за примусовим ліцензуванням, насправді буде дешевшою, ніж оригінальна.

Багато можна сказати про виробництво ліків та доступ до основних лікарських засобів. Але належну дискусію потрібно проводити на основі певних основних фактів. Серед них є те, що фармацевтичні компанії вкладають величезні суми грошей у забезпечення життєво необхідних ліків а також вживають заходів для допомоги тим, хто цього потребує. COVID-19 призвів до однієї з найбільших криз у сфері охорони здоров’я всіх часів- інновації та медичні прориви потрібні зараз як ніколи. Нівелювання прав інтелектуальної власності або їх знищення, безумовно, тільки погіршить ситуацію і не призведе до проривів, які в кінцевому рахунку могли б вивести нас із цього кошмару.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Hidden Dangers of Nannying Revealed by Pandemic

One of the fundamental questions raised by the pandemic is whether individuals can be entrusted to follow social distancing rules voluntarily or whether government force is necessary to accomplish that end. Most governments have channelled the latter assumption in the fight against COVID-19. After years of ratcheting our lifestyle of freedoms, that doesn’t come as a surprise.

From cannabis to tobacco and sugar consumption, lifestyle regulations infantilise consumers by “nudging” them toward what some government officials believe is best for them. The psychology behind such an approach is straightforward: if we continuously tell somebody they are incapable of choosing for themselves, they eventually come to believe it. Nannying consumers from A to Z and then all of a sudden expecting them to skip a Thursday pub night for the sake of social distancing is inconsistent, to say the least.

There are of course some good intentions behind various lifestyle regulations. Tobacco plain packaging and taxes, for instance, are meant to deter consumers because of both look and price. The plain packaging of sweets, crisps and sugary drinks is intended to drive down our consumption of sugar. Thus, branding bans are seen as a major tool by some in public health. But these measures beg two questions. First, do they have any propensity for success? Second, in light of the pandemic, can we afford to diminish the culture of individual responsibility through paternalism?

We know plain packaging doesn’t work. In 2012, Australia passed a nationwide plain packaging decree on all tobacco products. The goal was to reduce smoking rates. During the first years of the ban, more young people took up smoking. The smoking rates among Australians in the age range of 12-24-year-olds increased from 12 per cent in 2012 to 16 per cent in 2013, whereas it had been declining naturally in the years prior. Little or no improvement was made among people aged 30 or older between 2013 and 2016.

People aged 40–49 continued to be the age group most likely to smoke daily (16.9%) and the smoking rates among this age group went up from 16.2% in 2013. At the same time, Australia has seen an enormous increase in roll-your-own cigarettes: 26% in 2007, to 33% in 2013 and to 36% in 2016.

Consumers should have access to all the information they can get about products and then, crucially, have the freedom to decide for themselves. Branding bans block their access to information about the products they buy and consume. Information is dispersed through branding, and therefore branding bans remove that possibility.

We need individual responsibility more than ever. Our fast-developing and incredibly interconnected world is likely to face more pandemics, and we should be prepared as individuals. The line between collective responsibility — to socially distance for example — and individual responsibility is a thin one. The consequences of the former might affect other people, while the latter concerns only us as individuals.

When we choose to consume sugar, we are the ones responsible for the repercussions and we should be encouraged to bear that responsibility. Going out and shaking hands knowing that we have symptoms of COVID-19 puts at risk other people while staying at home limits our personal freedom. It is only through individual responsibility that we can learn to be socially responsible.

Paternalism destroys our ability to choose for ourselves and be burdened with the consequences. In the case of a pandemic, our failure to exercise our responsibility and sensibility leads to a collective failure and provides a ground for government force, lockdowns and all sorts of questionable interventions.

Ideally, aware of their responsibility and risks, each and every person could have voluntarily chosen to self-isolate, as many people did. But how can we expect individuals to follow public health decrees if we know some of them are ineffective?

First, governments paternalise us through branding bans and other nudges, and then they want us to act responsibly when the pandemic kicks in. This has to change, and we should encourage individual freedom followed by responsibility instead of infantilising consumers.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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