Germany loosens up about regulating store hours
Once strict laws about when shops can open and close are starting to be relaxed, much to the chagrin of labor unions and regulators
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OK, now that I've made what seems to me to be an impenetrable case for shop-closing laws, consider that we do not have these laws in the United States (for the most part). And somehow, against all seeming rationality, the system works, as we all well know. Chick-fil-A voluntarily closes on Sunday, and McDonald's does not; somehow they both make a profit. Many stores stay open 24 hours and the workers love it: they have more options to adjust their working hours. This is good for employment.Skip to next paragraph
This is the institutional blog of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and many of its affiliated writers and scholars commenting on economic affairs of the day.
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Consumers may or may not take advantage of longer hours. In fact, it is the consumers that dictate whether it is in the interest of the store to stay open after hours. Stores might try it and find it pointlessly unprofitable and stop. For some reason I don't understand, most barbershops in the South close on Wednesday. Such is their right. It works for them. When it stops working, they will change.
Or it could go the other way. In my own town, a pharmacy long had short hours (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) until a big chain store came in across the street with a 24/7 policy. Faced with declining profits, the old store adopted the same hours. Now there are two pharmacies facing each other, each of which is open at all times. Who wins? Both seem profitable, but the real winner here is the consumer.
My point is that this is a case where the idea of freedom would seem not to work — from a constructivist point of view — and where a plan seems needed. This is true in a host of areas: the freedom to live where you want, work where you want, invest in what you want, drink or smoke what you want, freely trade with anyone from any nation, etc.
You hear these kinds of objections when you propose that any law be repealed: why, there will be chaos!
It turns out that the real chaos comes when the state attempts to allocate scarce resources rather than leaving it to the price system and its talent for revealing what is economically rational or irrational. Shop-closing laws presume to tell people how they should use their time. But time, writes Mises, is a scarce resource; man "must economize it as he economizes other scarce factors." Only private actors — not politicians and bureaucrats — are in a position to make decisions concerning how it is used. Their choices can be accessed based on a business model rather than arbitrary political wrangling.
This is why liberty works and the state fails so miserably, and why the best-laid plans in politics never work out as expected.
Consider the case of patents. People say that if we get rid of patents, no one will invent anything anymore, and those who do will have their ideas and just profits stolen. And yet for most of human history, patents have not existed; and patents have not been part of the biggest technological explosions in our history. In fact, the opposite is true: patents slow down the pace of development by granting monopolies to favored producers. They thereby discourage innovation in the name of encouraging it.