Free Markets, Free People
Yes, just three. You’re right, I could probably make it 30 or 300. 3,000 even! But for brevity sake, three current examples where government has no business yet feels somehow justified in intruding or regulating in a manner that limits freedom.
First is an example of excessive regulation which in reality is an example of crony capitalism, where a regulation or mandatory licensing creates a state enforced bar to entry into an industry.
Louisiana has a plethora of such laws which regulate or license all sorts of things that few of the other states do. An example? The manufacture of caskets is illegal unless, well, you read it:
Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”
That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.
“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”
Indeed it is. And buyers should have a choice as to whether to buy it or some other casket. They likely could pick up the Abbey’s “big box” for much less than it might cost to buy a similar casket in a "licensed funeral director’s” place given the required overhead that the regulatory mandate places on such entities.
In effect, the mandate acts as a high bar to entry. It is likely the existing funeral industry in LA helped write the law. That’s called “crony capitalism”. The Abbey simply provides the illustration of the result. If freedom equals choice, LA is in the choice limiting business with regulatory and licensing regime like this.
Some good news on that front:
The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”
As you might imagine, the other side is not happy. So is it the state that is appealing? Well not the state, exactly:
The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has argued that the law protects consumers, has appealed, and the circuit court in New Orleans will hear the case in early June.
That’s right … the protected want to continue to have their state protected industry … protected. Good lord, if consumers have real choice, well, they might not buy the crony capitalist’s overpriced “funeral merchandise”.
And, of course, that state isn’t the only one with choice limiters working to cut down on your freedom. Our next two examples come from the state of New York. I know, shocking.
Case one – Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has decided that you fat folks just shouldn’t have the right to decide (there’s that choice thing again) on the size of “sugary drink” you can buy.
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
Nanny Bloomberg assumes New Yorkers need a mommy. That they’re fat because of their diet of sugary drinks of a certain size. He’s sure if he limits you to 16 fluid ounces of such belly wash they’ll slim right down. Nanny Bloomberg also assumes that the public wants him to intrude into every deli, fast-food franchise, food cart and sports arena to save them from themselves.
Because that’s a nanny’s job – limit choice. Limit freedom. All for the common good, of course. (added: here’s a distant cousin’s view – “Sixteen Ounces of Bull”. Amen, cuz).
Case 2? Well it seems a couple of state legislators in NY want to outlaw anonymous posting on the internet. A couple of Republicans, by the way.
New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara recently proposed legislation that would ban anonymous postings on websites in his state. The bill requires citizens posting on any blog, social network, message board or other forum, to turn over their full names, home addresses and IP address to web site administrators for public posting. Supposedly it is being pushed as an “anti-bullying” step.
His cohort in this nonsense, however, reveals the real purpose. State Assemblyman Jim Conte released a statement saying:
…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.
Or, the “let’s limit free speech to protect politician’s reputations” bill.
As the Center for Competitive Politics points out:
Anonymous speech has played a part in our political process since the very founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, which where primarily targeting voters in New York, under various pseudonyms. The Supreme Court upheld this precedent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, noting:
“[u]nder our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
“But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” McIntyre, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
Everyday in just about every way, our freedoms are under assault at all levels of government in this country. I spend a lot of time recording those at a federal level. But just as pernicious and certainly just as dangerous are those at local and state levels.
The cumulative result is we live in a much less free society than we did 100 years ago. 50 years ago. in fact, 20 years ago.
These three examples can indeed be multiplied by hundreds if not thousands. They are fairly common unfortunately. They cost a lot to enforce. They’re unnecessary. Most important though, in each case they limit choice and thereby freedom.
Frog. Pot. Rising heat.
Time to start getting serious about turning off the freedom limiting burner.
I’m beginning to think that the comparisons of Obama’s management of the oil spill to how Hurricane Katrina was handled are completely inapt. In reality, it looks more like the Obama administration should be compared to the storm itself.
Louisiana has been busily building berms about a mile out from the coast to halt the infiltration of oil into its sensitive marshes, wetlands and prime fishing areas. This process was greatly delayed by federal red tape, and now that the state has permits in hand it’s being order to stop because, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, it’s doing it wrong:
The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.
The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about the dredging is being done.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue.
Nungesser has asked for the dredging to continue for the next seven days, the amount of time it would take to move the dredging operations two miles and out resume work.
Work is scheduled to halt at midnight Wednesday.
Pat Austin is trying to understand the federal obstruction, but finds that political reasoning is the only thing that makes sense of it all:
I’m trying to see both sides here; I’m trying to understand the “coastal scientists” who contend that the berms will “change tidal patterns” and lead to more long term erosion of the islands, but if the islands are killed off by the oil what difference does it make? To borrow from Greta Perry’s analogy, if my house is on fire, what does it matter what room I try to extinguish first? It’s all doing down.
It seems that the feds are doing everything they can to cripple Louisiana’s own response to this crisis. Bobby Jindal reached his exasperation point long ago when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, If you’re not going to fix it, get out of the way and let us do it ourselves! From the moratorium, and Salazar’s promise to appeal the strike down of that moratorium, to the crazy red tape on the berm projects, to shutting down the skimmer barges for 24 hours, and now this?
Well, we could get the idea that Team Obama was trying to neutralize Jindal’s response, as if he were threatened by Bobby Jindal, or something.
For Billy Nungesser part, he isn’t taking this lying down. He fired off a letter to Obama demanding to be allowed to move forward with the coast-saving project … or else:
Plaquemines parish president Billy Nungesser is furious, drawing a line in the sand with the White House!
Nungesser is targeting President Obama as the only hope for continuing the work. In harsh letter he spelled out an option.
“Don’t shut us down, let us lay the pipe three miles out and then let us move the dredge so we will be down less than a day and we’ll refill the hole,” Nungesser said.
He also issued a threat to the President in the letter if he didn’t do something to help.
“It says if it shuts down, I’ll be on Anderson Cooper at nine…and it won’t be pretty.”
Nungesser also pushed Jindal to, in effect, damn the torpedoes and move full speed ahead:
“I asked the governor to let me stay out there tonight on the dredge, let em come out there and take the permit away.
Tell them the radio not working. We’ll smash it with a hammer.”
I’m actually a little surprised that Jindal hasn’t already taken this approach, citing exigent circumstances and daring Obama to shut him down.
Stepping back for a moment, does anyone else see the connection between the Arizona (and others) illegal immigration law, Gen. McChrystal’s insubordination, and Louisiana’s current predicament? Lacking any coherent direction, policy or plan, these people and entities are forced to take the reins over their particular situations only to be hindered by the Obama administration when they do, or worse, vilified and ridiculed. The lack of leadership creates a vacuum, and people like Jan Brewer, Gen. McChrystal, Bobby Jindal and Billy Nungesser are trying desperately to fill it. If there were ever a clear indication that Obama is an incompetent leader, this it.
Yessir – we have a unified plan and it is being executed to perfection to contain the Gulf oil spill.
The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.
The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done.
The Army Corps of Engineers issued permits to build the berms (and President Obama had 360 million allocated for that construction) which are now almost complete. The Fish and Wildlife Department, however, has now pulled those permits and told the state it must move the operation two miles further offshore to satisfy their concerns.
As you might imagine, that’s not made the president of the parish involved in the construction of the berms very happy:
“Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil,” Nungesser wrote to Obama. “Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.”
Nungesser has called Adm. Allen, BP and the White House trying to get the order lifted. None have responded to his calls. I have no idea what BP could do – it’s a federal thing – but I guess he figures maybe they could apply some pressure.
Nungesser’s letter includes an emotional plea to the president. “Please don’t let them shut this dredge down,” he wrote. “This requires your immediate attention!”
Sorry he has a general to fire, something, which thankfully for the administration, has taken the spill off the front pages.
And they wonder why people keep calling the federal effort “chaos” and continue to try to figure out who, if anyone, is in charge.
We’re 48 days into the worst American oil spill in history and the administration is just now seeminly becoming engaged in the business of addressing it. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has been hopping around like a frog on a hot griddle trying to get some action to preserve the state’s wetlands. In a statement released 3 days ago, he thanks President Obama for coming to the state and says that each of the 2 times he’s been there (in 48 days) the pace seems to pick up (hint, hint). He also says this:
“Just as we said yesterday, we told the President we are moving ahead without BP. We already signed contracts to begin this work with Shaw and Bean Dredging. We put in a request to the Army Corps of Engineers this morning to release their available dredges and they have indentified four dredges – including one located close to the site that is most likely to be available – the MV CALIFORNIA. I met with the CEO of Shaw today and they said that if the US Army Corps of Engineers will allow them to borrow sand closer to the dredging sites, which we will replace, we could see sand by Monday.
“We are moving forward with or without BP. We gave them two choices – they can either send us a check, get out of the way and let us start this work, or they can sign a contract and do it themselves. We are going ahead without them. Last night, we met with Admiral Allen and he said he feels like he is making progress in getting BP to actually pay for this work. To date, BP has done a great job in sending us press releases and attorneys, but they haven’t sent us any money to dredge.”
So why is anyone waiting on BP for anything? The oil slick certainly isn’t waiting on them. Why is government?
Well state government may have a budget problem. I.e. it may not have the money for such a massive undertaking. It might need disaster relief money.
Most would think that’s something the federal government should have made available immediately. Heck, if nothing else, divert some of that useless “stimulus” money that hasn’t been spent yet.
The bottom line is that in a time critical situation like this, a state governor shouldn’t be left to beating up a private company for money to do what needs to be done to save his state’s wetlands. I’m not saying BP shouldn’t pay – bill them for heaven sake – but why hasn’t the federal government’s disaster relief funding been used to remedy this situaition? Why is Jindal still “undertaking” the sand berms?
This is what people mean about a lack of leadership or sense of urgency concerning this spill from the President. Jindal and the state of Louisiana hit upon these berms as a method of keeping the oil away from Louisiana’s marshlands weeks ago. Why is he still trying to get them built?
Read the rest of Jindal’s press release and contrast that with what Obama has had to say. In one you’ll find an engaged leader on top of the situation and making it the priority it should be. In Obama’s case, it seems he’s being dragged into the problem figuratively kicking and screaming and would much rather be at the Ford theater or welcoming the latest sports team to the White House or attending another McCartney concert. Anything but the doing the job for which he campaigned.
Speaking of campaigns, Byron York dials up the Way Back machine and gives us a little reminder of the “executive experience” President Obama claimed then and why this should be no real surprise to those who were paying attention:
COOPER: And, Senator Obama, my final question — some of your Republican critics have said you don’t have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska. What’s your response?
OBAMA: Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.
Yes, it was all there for those who chose to actually look.
What do doctors and florists have in common in the state of Louisiana? Both have to be licensed by the state. That’s right – the person who preforms heart surgery on you and the person who arranges the flowers you get afterward both have to meet licensing requirements set by the state.
A 7-decades-old state law requires florists to pass a test and get a license to arrange and sell flowers, making Louisiana the only state in the USA with such a requirement. Supporters of the law say it ensures florists know what they’re doing and deliver quality products.
“Know what they’re doing and deliver quality products?” I thought the market, i.e. customers, usually rewarded or punished those in that profession who didn’t “know what they’re doing and [don't] deliver quality products”.
So is this licensing requirement a) rational b) necessary and even c) constitutional? What it certainly is, though, is a bar to entry into the market imposed by government.
The arguments about licensing in general fall on two sides. Some see no reason to license anything – the market will sort out the good from the bad. Those that approve of licensing argue than in many cases lives and health are at stake and, in such cases, it is the role of government to step in and ensure those who pursue those professions are competent enough to do so.
Arranging flowers certainly doesn’t seem to fit the category of a risk to either the life or health of their clients.
What it certainly does is limit those who can enter the market. First, it imposes a $2,000 licensing fee. That will obviously keep a certain percentage who might otherwise become florists from attempting it because they don’t have the money. Certainly that might be a small percentage and you can make the argument that anyone who can’t afford the fee probably can’t afford to be a florist, but is that your or the state’s call? Instead it is an artificial barrier to entry in the market arbitrarily imposed by the state.
And, usually, when such a bar to entry is evident, you’ll find businesses who’ve met the bar to be the most ardent of supporters. Why? Because it is an artificial means to limit competition. For instance, this case:
The test to obtain a Louisiana florist license consists of an 80-question written exam and a four-part hands-on section, where aspiring florists are scored on how well they put together funeral wreaths, table bouquets and other arrangements, said Mike Rome, vice president of the Louisiana State Florists’ Association, which supports the law.
On the written exam, candidates are asked questions about floral arranging and flowers in general, including how to prolong the life of flowers, wiring methods and plant identification.
In the design section, the aspiring florists have four hours to arrange four designs: a wedding arrangement, corsage, funeral wreath and table bouquet.
Judges then score the designs using guidelines such as “Has the design the proper focal point?,” “Is the correct gauge wire used on flowers?” and “Is a corsage pin attached to the corsage in a way that will not injure anyone?”
Candidates are judged by a panel of three licensed florists. The average score of the written and floral arrangement sections needs to be 70% or higher to pass. The arrangements are judged more on technical competence than creativity, Rome said.
“The florist license gives the consumer a little more assurance that you get a quality product,” Rome said. “Florists are artists; they’re very opinionated. But sometimes you have to follow industry standards.”
“Industry standards?” What “industry standards”. Louisiana is the only state in the union that licenses florists. So whatever standards are imposed by a rather biased group, who apparently brook very little deviation from whatever arbitrary standards they’ve dreamed up, have control over who or who doesn’t join them in that state’s florist market.
As John Stossel reminds us:
Established businesses have always used government to handcuff competition. Years ago, small grocers tried to ban supermarkets. A&P was going to “destroy Main Street,” the grocers cried. Minnesota legislators responded to their lobbying by passing a law that forbade supermarkets to hold sales. Consumers were hurt.
And that is the result of this legal travesty.
As it turns out, 4 would-be florists have taken the requirement to court:
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here last week is challenging the law’s constitutionality, claiming it infringes on a resident’s right to earn a living. The suit, filed by the Institute of Justice, a libertarian non-profit law firm based in Washington, D.C., lists as plaintiffs four local florists who have either failed the test or refuse to take it.
“Who is the state to tell me I’m not an artist?” said Monique Chauvin, 42, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Chauvin, owner of Mitch’s Flowers in New Orleans, failed the test in 2000 and has not retaken it. “It’s time for this archaic law to be off the books,” she said.
Chauvin, who has apparently owned a successful florist business in New Orleans for 10 years is defacto proof that the requirement is unnecessary. She’s obviously been successful enough in the marketplace (i.e. her customers find her floral arrangements satisfactory enough to keep her in business – even in a recession) without licensing to stay open for 10 years.
So, why is Chauvin bringing a lawsuit now? Enforcement:
Chauvin said her legal fight is about keeping her shop open through the economic recession. She now has two options: hire a licensed florist or take the test again. If not, she’ll be forced to close her shop.
The market, not a state panel, should be the final judge of her bouquets, she said.
“If a customer is not happy with what we do, he’s not going to come back to me,” Chauvin said. “That should be the quality control.”
Exactly. So in answer to the three questions above – a) it’s not rational. It imposes arbitrary requirements as well as artificial bars to entry on a profession which threatens neither life or health. b) it’s not necessary. Consumers don’t need government “protection” from florists. and c) it’s most likely not constitutional since most would agree it interferes with a person’s fundamental right to earn an honest living in profession which doesn’t threaten life or health.
Of course, my use of the words “life or health” imply I find the licensing of those who work in professions that can have a detrimental effect on life or health, such as the medical field, to be ok. Well, yes and no. I think, for instance, a market solution is possible for those professions as well. Think, for instance, if the American Medical Association, instead of being a shill for government health care reform, was a body that set minimal professional standards for the medical profession and anyone seeking membership had to demonstrate competence enough to meet those standards. If you were seeking out a doctor, most likely your first question would be “is he (or she) a member of the AMA?” And, in this day and time, you’d most likely be able to access an AMA data base to check doctor’s out before going to them. And your insurance carrier would certainly require you use such a doctor, wouldn’t it? In fact, you’d likely be leery of any doctor that wasn’t a member. Same solution as now exists done on a voluntary basis without government intervention. And certainly there might be other associations that would form which would also lend credibility to a doctor’s abilities than just the one.
Would the AMA have a reason to assure its members met their standards and continued to meet them? Of course it would. It’s very existence would depend on it, as would the credibility of every one of it’s members.
Of course that’s all been rendered moot by government deciding it should be the final arbiter in that regard. But it is food for thought, isn’t it?
That is how the headline should have been written.
However, Think Progress chose to characterize it this way: “Jindal Rejects $90 Million In Recovery Funding That Would Have Benefited 25,000 Louisiana Residents“. Says Think Progress:
Today, however, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced his intention to oppose changing state law to allow his Lousiana citizens to qualify for the second two unemployment provisions.
So why did Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal do what he did? Well here’s what his office says in a press release:
The Governor said the state will not use a portion of the stimulus package that requires the state to change its law to expand unemployment insurance (UI) coverage to qualify for up to $32.8 million of the federal stimulus funding because it ultimately would result in a tax increase on Louisiana businesses.
Sounds like a governor who feels he and his legislature should be deciding their law and not the federal government.
Isn’t that what he’s elected to do? Doesn’t that sound like a perfect 10th amendment defense? Someone point out to me where the Constitution specifies that the federal government can reach down and, without debate or legislative or executive input, force a change of state law as a requirement to receive the aid.
Think Progress says:
But it is not clear why participating in the expanded unemployment insurance program would result in tax increases for business. By Jindal’s own estimate, the recovery package would have funded his state’s unemployment expansion for three years, at which point the state could — if it chose to do so — phase out the program.
Here’s a better idea – pull the requirement at a federal level. Why isn’t that the Think Progress position instead?
TP quotes a real expert in this area to close out the post:
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin suggested earlier today, perhaps Jindal’s presidential ambitions are “clouding” his judgement. “I think he’s been tapped as the up-and-coming Republican to petition a run for president the next time it goes around. So he has a certain vernacular, and a certain way he needs to talk right now,” Nagin said.
Leave it to Mr. “Chocolate City” to see it that way instead of understanding Jindal’s position is the right position for his state. You have to wonder how Nagin would feel if Jindal told him the state would only pay for levee repair if he changed the law in New Orleans and did something the state required, even if it wasn’t in the city’s best interest?
We’d hear him hollering “no way” clear to Atlanta.