Since the value of freedom rests on the opportunities it provides for unforeseen and unpredictable actions, we will rarely know what we lose through a particular restriction of freedom.

—Friedrich Hayek. Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. I, 1973.

Every restriction, every regulation, every fee and every rule restricts entry to, and innovation within, industries. There were dozens of Internet search engines that existed before Google came along. Everyone who used them thought they were wonderful and that the technology could not get any better. But some people complained that the results favored some websites over others. Had the government decided that it was time to regulate and license search engines, the biggest ones, run by billion-dollar companies, would have colluded with the regulators to set the bar for entry into the industry impossibly high. A company wanting to start a new search engine would need millions if not billions of dollars to become licensed. As it was, the two university students who founded Google by tinkering in their dorm room, revolutionized the way the world finds its information. This is just one example of where humanity has escaped the meddlers, yet there are millions more where humanity was not so lucky. Taken together, the opportunities squashed before inception by government regulation from Ancient Greece to the present would likely have seen humanity colonize half the galaxy by now.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove