Libertarian issues

How business hours should be approached

“Queensland Trading Hours: Businesses should be free to chooise their own trading hours”, Liberty Works, November 13 2016:

In response to Queensland Government’s review of the Review of Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990, LibertyWorks Inc. is proposing that all regulations around tradable hours be abolished as soon as possible. Trading hours are an unjust restriction on the freedom of business owners and consumers, they encourage rent seeking, and limit the employment opportunities available to Queensland’s most vulnerable people.

The Nobel prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek warned of the ‘Pretense of Knowledge’, at its core, his argument was that knowledge is unevenly dispersed among different members of society – and that as a result, decisions are best made by those with local knowledge rather than by a central authority. This theory can be applied to trading hours. How can a government agency possibly know what time the local store should open? Should it be 6am or 9am? Can that same government agency know what time the consumer wants to shop? Fortunately, the business owner doesn’t need perfect knowledge of their consumer’s mindset. The price system provides all the information the business owner needs. If the store is profitable at a certain time it will open, if not it will close. This leaves no role for the state in such decisions.

Furthermore, the imposition of trading hours is an unjust restriction on the property rights of the business owner. The business owner either leases or owns their shop at considerable cost. The business owner owns the property right, not the state, provided the business owner complies with any relevant laws, they should be free to open and close when they choose. Equally, the freedom of consumers is restricted. If someone is willing to buy and another person is willing to sell – why is there any role for the state in this transaction? Trading hours are a reduction in individual liberty for people of Queensland. This maybe a small restriction, but an unnecessary restriction all the same.

Trading hours also encourage rent seeking, during this review you will receive submissions from various interests stating how unfair it would be to change trading hours. That their business can’t compete with X company. Such submissions should be disregarded, it’s not the role for the state to protect vested interests. If a consumer prefers x, but the state limits their option to y, then a deadweight loss occurs – this makes us all poorer and provides us with less choice. Why should the busy parent be forced to go to the local shop and pay twice the price for goods when they could go to the supermarket? They shouldn’t. It’s an unjust restriction on their freedom and imposes a real economic loss on their income.

Finally trading hours combined with inflexible penalty rights hurts Queensland’s most vulnerable people. By restricting trading hours the State Government is limiting the employment options for those people willing to work those hours. If a business decided to extend its trading hour and they were able to find workers willing to do those hours this would create more employment opportunity shifting the demand curve for labour. By maintaining trading hours the State Government is restricting the employment opportunities of Queenslander.
In conclusion trading hours are an unnecessary burden on the Queensland economy. They serve no purpose and the State Government has insufficient knowledge to regulate them, they unnecessarily restrict freedom, encourage rent seeking, and destroy wealth. Therefore, trading hours shouldn’t be reformed, they should be abolished.

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