Regulatory policy is one of the five ingredients in the recipe for growth and prosperity.
Ideally, there should be a minimal amount of red tape, and it should be governed by sensible cost-benefit analysis (i.e., so it deals with genuine externalities such as pollution).
Unfortunately, politicians rarely favor this light-touch approach, in part because of unseemly “public choice” incentives and in part because they focus only on the benefit side of the cost-benefit equation.
But the cost is very real.
And that means that there are substantial benefits when governments reduce the regulatory burden.
Let’s look at some research published by Italy’s central bank. Sauro Mocetti, Emanuela Ciapanna, and Alessandro Notarpietro investigated the impact of liberalization last decade. Here’s what they looked at.
…the importance of structural reforms, aimed at promoting sustainable and balanced growth, has been at the center of the economic debate, in Italy… Structural reforms are measures designed for modifying the very structure of an economy; they typically act on the supply side,i.e. by removing obstacles to an efficient (and equitable) production of goods and services, and by increasing productivity, so as to improve a country’s capacity to increase its growth potential… The aim of this paper is to assess the macroeconomic impact of three major structural reforms carried out in Italy over the last decade. They include (i)liberalization of services, (ii) incentives to “business innovation” (included in the so-called “Industry 4.0” Plan) and (iii) several measures in the civil justice system aimed at increasing the courts efficiency.
And here are their results.
Our results indicate that the three reforms, introduced in different years and with different timing, starting in 2011 and up to 2017, have already begun to produce their effects on the main macroeconomic variables and on Italy’s potential output. In particular, and taking into account the uncertainty surrounding our micro-econometric estimates, by 2019 GDP was between 3 and 6% higher than it would otherwise have been in the absence of these reforms, with the largest contribution being attributable to the liberalizations in the service sector. A further increase of about 2 percentage points would be reached in the next decade, due to the unfolding of the effects of all the reforms considered here. Therefore, the long-run increase in Italy’s potential output would lie in between 4% and 8%. We also detect non-negligible effects on the labor market: employment would increase in the long term by about 0.4%, while the unemployment rate would be reduced by about 0.3 percentage points.
More output and more jobs. Hard to argue with that outcome.
Here are some charts from the study. Figure 7 shows the impact on some macroeconomic aggregates.
And Figure 8 shows the estimated improvement in the labor market.
These results are good news, but Italy still has a long way to go. It’s only ranked #51 according to Economic Freedom of the World, and it’s score for regulation has only improved by a slight margin over the past decade.
P.S. I shared some research earlier this year about the positive impact of another type of deregulation in Italy.