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The Great Libertarian Idea in President Obama’s 2015 Budget

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

 Surprise! There’s at least one great — and solidly libertarian — idea in President Barac

Occupational LicensingObama’s 2015 budget: cutting back the plague of occupational licensing.

In an item entitled “Reducing Unnecessary Occupational Licensing Requirements” Obama announces plans to “reduce occupational licensing barriers that keep people from doing the jobs they have the skills to do,” noting that occupational licensing is “putting in place unnecessary training and high fees” in many fields.

President Obama proposes a $15 million in grants to states for “identifying, exploring, and addressing areas where occupational licensing requirements create an unnecessary barrier to labor market entry or labor mobility…”

This is yet another example of a libertarian/free market idea bursting into the mainstream.

Libertarians at the Institute for Justice, the Reason Foundation and elsewhere have long pointed out the harm of occupational licensing requirements.

For example:

  • Occupational licensing laws — found in all 50 states — restrict entry into over 1,100 different occupations.
  • They have grown explosively. In the 1950s, less than five percent of American workers were required to obtain a government license to do their job. But today, that number has passed an incredible 30 percent — meaning one in three Americans must obtain permission from the government to pursue their chosen profession. 
  • The cost of these laws to consumers is astonishing. One 2011 study estimated that occupational licensing laws increase costs to consumers by a whopping $203 billion per year. As a result, some people are not able to afford some services, including crucial ones like dental care. A 2009 study found that states allowing dental hygienists to provide routine dental care had fewer adults with missing teeth than those that did not.
  • Occupational licensing laws destroy millions of American jobs — by one estimate, a whopping 2.85 million jobs. They make it prohibitively expensive or too difficult for newcomers to enter fields in which they have competency but can’t afford costly and unnecessary training and licensing. 
  • Occupational licensing laws slow or even halt innovation. One recent example is the use of licensing regulations for taxi drivers to halt new, highly competitive app-based services such as Uber.
  • Among the occupations in which entry is restricted by licensing laws: interior decorators, hair braiders, foot massagers, animal breeders, bartenders, funeral attendants, upholsterers, shampooers, music therapists, auctioneers, talent agents, and ballroom dance teachers. 

Of course, supporters of occupational licensing argue it is needed to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.

However, reports the Institute for Justice: “Research to date — on occupations as diverse as school teachers, interior designers, mortgage brokers, dentists, physicians and others — provides little evidence that government licenses protect public health and safety or improve the quality of products or services.”

Astute Liberator Online readers can probably guess the real reason these laws exist.

“These laws are created under the guise of ‘helping’ consumers,” wrote Adam B. Summers of the Reason Foundation in a 2007 study. “In reality, the laws are helping existing businesses keep out competition, restricting consumer choice, destroying entrepreneurship, and driving up prices.”

Further, many of these occupations are in fields where, in the past, the poor, immigrants and other challenged workers — those with the least resources — have been able to get a toehold in the economy.

To learn more, check out these resources:

Writing at National Review Online, economist Veronique de Rugy sums up the problem nicely:

“People who want to work, start businesses and make a living shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to do so. Consumers can take care of themselves, especially with our sharing economy and the easy feedback mechanisms it offers. …

“Many of the licensed occupations have traditionally provided low-income Americans with a path to self-sufficiency and upward mobility. By erecting barriers to entry to these occupations, we erect barriers to entry to the American dream.”

Won’t Big Businesses Abuse Their Power in a Free Market?

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Won’t big businesses abuse their power in a free market? What if the only choices you have are bad businesses? For example, what if such companies grew so big that they could control the entire market?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In today’s society, you could indeed have a sector where all businesses are “bad,” because government lets some companies have a monopoly (e.g., local utilities, AT&T before deregulation, etc.) or a cartel (e.g., banks).

In a libertarian society, however, this would be much less likely. A sector with only “bad” businesses would soon be invaded by competitors who recognized that they could earn and retain customer loyalty (and profits) by being “good.”

In today’s society, many businesses are bigger than they would be in a libertarian one, because the high cost of regulation drives small firms out of business. For some examples, check out the cases of the small businesses that the libertarian Institute for Justice has tried to protect from over-regulation.

We are told, usually by government entities, that the free market creates monopolies, but actually it is the government that does so. For more on this subject, check out Chapter 7 in my book, Healing Our World (the 1992 edition is a free read on my website, www.ruwart.com).

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Antitrust: The Case for Repeal by Dominick Armentano. This outstanding 100-page book — available as a FREE ebook from the Mises Institute — shows that anti-trust and anti-monopoly regulation, far from serving and protecting the public, is merely a tool used by powerful businesses against their competitors.

* “Federal Regulations Have Made You 75 Percent Poorer“ by Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine. This short and very readable 2013 article summarizes research by economists John Dawson and John Seater. The two compared U.S. economic growth with the growth in federal regulation since 1949, and calculated that federal regulations cost the average American household more than a quarter-million dollars in lost income — annually.



Short Answers to Tough Questions
Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

The Missing Ingredient in Your Fact-Based Arguments for Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Facts are essential to making the case for liberty. But you can make dry facts come alive to your listeners — by using the mind-changing power of stories.

Stories — both true and fictional — have a special power. The greatest teachers have Memorable Storiesalways used stories: think of the parables of Jesus, the fables of Aesop, the witty tales of the Taoist Chuang-Tzu. Nearly every culture uses stories both to entertain and to convey vital lessons.

Now we have scientific evidence that stories are extraordinarily effective. Bestselling author Carmine Gallo, in his book Talk Like TED, cites Princeton University research which used MRIs to study how the brains of audience members reacted to stories. The studies showed that stories actually activate all areas of the brain.

Says Gallo: “Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.”

Obviously, if we want to successfully persuade others, we should be telling lots of stories.

When you can combine a story with your facts and figures, your audience listens. They identify. They are moved. They feel, as well as calculate. Further, while it’s hard to remember facts and figures, people remember stories — and eagerly share them.

Let’s take as an example the issue of medical marijuana. There are many logical, fact-based arguments that can — and should — be used in persuading others on this issue. But consider this story, a version of which was published in the Pittsburgh Press in the early 1990s, before liberty activists begin to have success in getting states to re-legalize marijuana for medical purposes:

James Burton, a former Kentuckian, is living literally in exile in the Netherlands. Burton, a Vietnam War vet and master electrical technician, suffers from a rare form of hereditary glaucoma. All males on his mother’s side of his family had the disease. Several of them are blind.

Burton found that marijuana could hold back, and perhaps halt, the glaucoma. So he began growing marijuana for his own use and smoking it.

Kentucky State Police raided his 90-acre farm and found 138 marijuana plants and two pounds of raw marijuana. At his 1988 trial, North Carolina ophthalmologist Dr. John Merrit — at that time the only physician in America allowed by the government to test marijuana in the treatment of glaucoma — testified that marijuana was “the only medication” that could keep Burton from going blind.

Nevertheless, Burton was found guilty of simple possession for personal use and was sentenced to one year in a federal maximum security prison, with no parole. The government also seized his house and his farm, valued at around $70,000. Under forfeiture laws, there was no defense he could raise against the seizure of his farm. No witnesses on behalf of the defense, not even a statement from the Burtons, were allowed at the hearing.

After release, Burton and his wife moved to the Netherlands, where he could legally purchase marijuana to stave off his blindness. Instead of a sprawling farm, they now live in a tiny apartment.

They say they would love to return to America — but not at the cost of Burton going blind.

See how that puts a human face on the medical marijuana issue?

There are equally moving, equally appalling stories about taxation, utility monopolies, First Amendment issues, gun rights, licensing laws, war… virtually any issue. Anywhere the government has committed aggression against individuals, there is a story to be told.

A great place to find such stories is the website of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian legal defense organization. IJ has done a wonderful job of collecting stories of heroic individuals fighting to defend their lives and property against oppressive government.

Whenever you come across heart-rending, powerful stories of victims of government, or people overcoming oppression, collect them for future use.

Most people decide what they believe not just on bare facts but also on feelings and emotions. Give them stories to hang your facts on, memorable stories that make your facts come alive, and you will be far more effective in your political persuasion.

VIDEO: It’s Almost Illegal to Start a Business in the U.S.A.

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Believe it or not, in what was once the land of the free, fully one in three Americans must seek and win a government-issued license before they can start a business. No wonder unemployment’s so high!

This funny — and horrifying — animated cartoon from the libertarian Institute for Justice (IJ) brings this important issue to life. Watch prospective entrepreneur Chuck try to start business after business across the country— and get slapped down time and time again by the outrageous maze of unjustifiable laws that stop would-be business owners from getting their ideas off the ground.

And… well, we don’t want to give anything away, but you just won’t believe what happens to poor Chuck in the end. And it’s all true.

The Institute for Justice says one of the principal obstacles to creating new jobs and entrepreneurial activity across the country is the complex web of regulations cities and states impose on small businesses.

IJ has lots of back-up information for this video at their website. Their report “License To Work” is a good place to start.

Share this entertaining and enlightening video with friends. Let them get mad about it too! About 5 minutes.