What is an essential business? Covid-19 is forcing state and local governments across the United States to make this determination and the methodology being used once again gives me an opportunity to go on a Libertarian Rant.
Being designated an essential business means you continue to collect revenue when others cannot. This is an enormous incentive for owners to get the government to declare them an essential business. The idea is simple enough, what business must stay open in order for people to survive? Yet, the implementation, when handed to people who are susceptible to bribery, influence, and even threats becomes something entirely different.
In the world we live in, an essential business is simply one where the owners have enough influence with government officials to be declared such. I’m not picking on one business or another, frankly, they probably should be bribing and threatening local politicians to stay open as it means they continue their revenue stream when everyone else cannot.
The point is that essential is largely meaningless when government gets to define it. If we got together and talked about it or five minutes we’d come up with a pretty definitive list. Food and water, medical supplies and service, and HVAC depending on the season. As an aside, the preceding sentence demonstrates the necessity of the Oxford Comma.
Once government becomes involved, it’s all essential if you pay those making the decisions enough. All you have to do is have a friend in government and your business gains an enormous competitive advantage. Your employees can be forced to come into work and do their jobs. Now, for many employees this is a good thing although certainly some would prefer not to risk their lives doing so, that’s not really the point.
The reality of anything being an essential business at this time of Covid-19 illustrates the problem with having government make these decisions for us. If you run a business type that doesn’t have influence, you don’t get to decide for yourself if you should be open, the government makes that decision for you.
I’m not saying staying open is necessarily a good thing, if a bunch of your employees and customers get Covid-19 and die that’s horrific. I’m just saying when government decides what is an essential business rather than consumers, we get clearly non-essential businesses staying open. That’s the problem with having government make decisions for us. They force bad decisions on us. We should be free to make those bad decisions ourselves.