What’s in a Name: 3 Pieces of Legislation with Misleading Titles

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Upon winning independence, our founding fathers were wary of centralized power. They understood the corrupting nature of power, and set about creating a system meant to balance power, and reduce greed and corruption. 

Our system of “checks and balances” is supposed to ensure that the government doesn’t violate the constitution, and they were successful.. for a while.

Arguably the first erosion to this system came in 1913, when the 62nd Congress voted to pass the 17th amendment. Prior to 1913; the general population would directly elect members of their community to represent their interests in the House of Representatives, while state legislatures would pick 2 citizens of the state to serve the interests of the state at the federal level. When state legislatures picked Senators to represent their state, the Senator holds no power, if you’re not living up to your obligations, than the legislature would replace you.  Counteracting the members of the house who would stay in power by using charm to win re-election. The general population lives in an echo-chamber. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC and read Slate on your phone while driving the kids to school.  If you’re a republican you watch “The Five” on Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on your lunch break. When you think about it, it’s incredibly easy to trigger Democrats,Republicans, and Libertarians.

For example most Democrats LOVE giving their takes on these topics:

 

  • Income inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Identity politics 
  • Environmental concerns
  • Abortion
  • Guns
  • Taxes not being high enough

 

While Republicans will lose their mind for:

 

  • Illegal immigration
  • Military spending
  • Police
  • Guns
  • Taxes
  • Christianity
  • Muslims
  • Abortion

Libertarians? We will lose our mind for just about anything, but if you want to get us going discuss:

  • Roads
  • Military
  • Public Education
  • Free Markets/Regulations
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Ron Paul
  • Government spending

 

We’re all hypocrites. Democrats care about identity politics, unless you’re a person of color who may disagree with you politically.  They want government mandated equality for every gender and race, except white guys. Republicans think we spend too much. Specifically on regulations, bureaucracy, and entitlement programs; but balk at cutting military spending, despite finding $125 billion in administrative waste, or any government spending that helps them remain in power; you’re a conservative farmer who wants to cut food stamps? Alright, how about after we cut corn subsidies? Last month I wrote about how Social Security is destroying our country and Republicans went ballistic. Libertarians are the most annoying people on the planet, nobody’s a “real” libertarian, we have a portion of the party that wants free markets, but is anti-immigration and “America first.” We have a county chair in Michigan who supports Antifa, and our Vice Presidential candidate appeared to be actively supporting Hillary. Literally no consistency.

Our general stupidity, and tendency towards hypocrisy has allowed the career politician to thrive. Knowing we react to buzz words and topics that sound sexy, they use psychology to garner support. Just look at the title of the bills they write .

The Patriot Act

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Sixteen years ago next month, on 10/26/01,  George W. Bush signed the “USA Patriot Act” into law. Passed in the aftermath of September 11th by a vote of 98-1 in the Senate, and 357-66 (it is worth mentioning that the only Republicans to vote against this bill were Robert Ney, Butch Otter, and Ron Paul) in the House, in an attempt to curb terrorism.  

To put it simply, the legislation was passed in a panic with very little debate. Former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 on October 23, 2001, the House passed it the next day, and within 72 hours we had passed legislation that massively expanded the scope of the federal government.

There is nothing “patriotic” about the “Patriot Act.”  The indefinite detention of immigrants? That violates the sixth amendment. “Enhanced surveillance?” That’s led to NSA wiretapping, a clear violation of the fourth amendment. A lot can be said about some of the shady things in our Constitution, but the most important political document in American history isn’t the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence; it’s the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Both collections of essays helped develop this country; while the Federalist Papers defended the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists demanded there be a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government.

The point is, the first ten amendments to the constitution are so important that it almost tore apart this country.  And in a moment of panic, we passed laws that violate the bill of rights.

The reason the Patriot Act keeps getting extended (last extended by Obama in 2011), is that no politician wants to appear weak on national security, and being against the Patriot Act means you support terrorism, so politicians continue to support it. Even though it doesn’t  work and often ruins lives.

Affordable Healthcare for America Act

obamacare

The “Affordable Healthcare for America Act,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare” was President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement. FDR had “The New Deal,” Johnson had his “Great Society,” Barack Obama has “Obamacare.”

Signed into law by the 111th Congress in March of 2010, with a single Republican voting for the legislation (Joseph Cao, Louisiana). 39 Democrats voted against the bill, bringing the final tally to 220 for, and 215 against.

The legislation is exceptionally long, and provided healthcare to 24 million uninsured Americans (at the threat of a tax for non-compliance). After surviving the Supreme Court, Obamacare premiums have continued to soar. As the “New York Times” points out;

“While fewer than 20 million Americans buy their own insurance, the tribulations of the individual market have captured most of the public’s attention. The average cost of a benchmark plan in the individual market rose 20 percent this year, according to Kaiser, as insurers tried to stem their losses. “

Although they later go on to defend the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that using the the term “affordable” is a misnomer. Being forced to pay for insurance you don’t want, that rises at a rate of 20% annually, under threat of punishment is the exact opposite of “affordable.”

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

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Unlike some other pieces of legislation, “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984,” enacted by President Reagan in October of 1984, doesn’t have a flashy nickname. The name itself is straightforward and to the point. An idiot could conceive what this legislation was meant to do. When enacted it became the first comprehensive revision of the United States criminal code since 1900. Like the Patriot Act for Bush, and “Obamacare” for Obama, “Comprehensive Crime Control” was meant to be, and is, a cornerstone of Reagan’s legacy.

The name itself is brilliant. Nobody likes crime, crime is bad. We need to get rid of crime.

But what is crime?

We all have our own moral code, our own sense of right and wrong. We all define crime differently. A soccer mom from Kansas is going to have a different vision of right and wrong than a poor kid from LA.

The benign nature of the name meant most people wouldn’t pay any attention to it. The goal was if you were against crime, than the average American wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Problem is the legislation was not benign. This country was founded on a set of principles that valued the individual over the community, the community over the state, and the state over the federal government. When it came to legal affairs the founding fathers preferred to leave the punishment of citizens to locals. A soccer mom in Kansas and a poor kid in LA have different experiences, values, and ways of life, it only makes sense that there would be minimal federal oversight on criminal affairs. That was true until small government conservatives created the United States Sentencing Commission, and put them in charge of normalizing prison sentencing.  Their recommendations became the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” creating mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have had a jarring effect on society. Disproportionately affecting people of color, and lower economic status, hurting multiple generations. Mandatory minimums created career criminals, comprehensive crime reform just created more crime.

The legislation also reinstated the federal death penalty, increased penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation, and created the despicable act of civil asset forfeiture .

All of this was able to get through because the name was self-explanatory and boring.
How a lawmaker labels their legislation matters. These pieces of legislation affect hundreds of millions of lives. What they pass matters. Using clever, or boring names and nicknames to either attract or repel attention is manipulation that pays off in votes. We need to demand better.

 

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Trump Has An Idea That Everyone Can Agree On! (Except Democrats)

 

 

During the Presidential campaign Donald Trump promised to strip the Federal Aviation Administration of some of their power by finally privatizing Air Traffic Control.  On Tuesday, a bill doing just that passed a major legislative hurdle.

The bill was introduced by Bill Shuster (R,PA), and passed committee by a vote of 32-25, with every Democrat voting against the bill.

The legislation would create a privately held non-profit corporation held by a 13 member board of directors. The NPO would then be funded by a service fee that would presumably be paid for by airlines, and passed along to ticket holders. Which could, have some effect on ticket prices, but better that the fee is paid for by those traveling than by taxing everyone.  

There was, however, a lone Republican dissenter. Todd Rokita (R, IN) broke party lines in committee, voting against the measure saying;

“It’s the corporatization of a monopoly where one part of the ecosystem can take over the rest”

In Milton Friedman’s masterpiece on the role of capitalism in freedom, “Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition” he states that if monopolies exist, he would rather they exist in the public sphere because the public sphere reacts swiftly to change. 

Nav Canada has operated independently from the Canadian government since 1996.

Take Canada, for example; Canada privatized Air Traffic Control through a privately held NPO in 1996. Since then, as Investors.com has noted; 

“As part of its never-ending, multibillion dollar”NextGen” upgrade project, the FAA plans to replace the paper strips that flight controllers still use to track flights. The current plan is to have electronic flight strips in just 89 of the nation’s busiest airport control towers — 11 years from now.”

During that same period of time, the budget of the FAA has increased 95% while Air Traffic Control costs have increased 71%.

The inefficiency has even been noticed by the government. Inspector General Calvin Scovel admitted in front of the House Transportation Committee that the FAA suffered from;

Inspector General Calvin Scovel admits the FAA has a problem.


“long-standing management problems have led to further delays with FAA’s efforts to deliver new technologies and major acquisitions.”

 

Chris Edwards, from the Cato Institute, notes that our ATC system is so technologically behind that we are still using radar detection. Most of the civilized world transitioned to GPS years ago. 

 

Privatizing Air Traffic Control is a great first step. It’s not inconceivable to believe that privatizing the ATC will lead to better technology, and more efficient flight paths. And at the end of the day, if our flights are shorter, isn’t that a win for everyone?

Five Forgotten Founding Fathers: John Hancock

 

With only a week before we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence; which, for our foreign readers, is an American holiday where we celebrate freedom from the British Empire by drinking a reckless amount of beer before playing with explosives, I thought it would be fun to profile some of the guys responsible for making the fourth so special.

Everyone knows who John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are, but revolution was a team effort, and much like how the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t have won the 2015 NBA Title without Andre Iguodala, America wouldn’t be possible without John Hancock.

Most famous for being the largest signatory of the “Declaration of Independence,” Hancock was a fundamental player in the uprising of the colonies.

Early Life

Born January 23, 1737, John Hancock was named after his father, a clergyman who baptized John Adams in 1735.  The senior John Hancock, died while his son was still a child. Holding the belief that a child should have a father figure, his mother Mary sent John to live with his uncle Thomas, a wealthy merchant, and his aunt Lydia in 1744.

Thomas and Lydia had no children, and raised John as their own. Thomas soon began to groom John to take over “Hancock House,” which imported manufactured goods from Britain, while exporting rum, whale oil, fish, and other goods.  The business meant that the Hancock’s were one of Boston’s wealthiest families.

John Hancock was considered to be exceptionally smart. Upon graduating from Harvard at age 17, he went to work for his uncle, where he negotiated some exceptionally profitable trade contracts between “Hancock House” and Britain during the French and Indian War.  His success led him to spend a year living in London, where he witnessed the coronation of King George III in 1761.  

John Hancock was a man who actively sought wealth and power, joining the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew in 1762, gave him access to some of the wealthiest and most influential residents of Boston, connections he would leverage in his political career and during the revolution. In 1763, due to his uncle’s failing health, John Hancock took control of “Hancock House,” cementing his rise as an influential Bostonian.

The Hancock family had a generous history, endearing themselves to the city of Boston by giving generously to the church and the poor.  Upon his death in 1764, Thomas Hancock freed the family slaves, and there is no record of John Hancock ever trying to buy or sell slaves.

Political Beginnings

The French and Indian War, known as “The 7 Years War” elsewhere, had historically high costs due to the location (travelling across the ocean to fight in North America), bribing Native Americans, and loss of product due to smugglers. This caused the British debt to double between 1754 and 1763. 

The 7 Years War doubled Great Britain’s debt in only 9 years.

The “Molasses Act” which had been enacted to raise funds for the war, was set to expire in 1763. Lacking funds, it was extended and in 1764 and became known as the “Sugar Act.” The tax caused outrage, especially in Massachusetts where Samuel Adams and James Otis led protests against “taxation without representation.” The argument essentially boiled down to the fact that Adams did not feel that Parliament could enact taxes against colonists if the colonists had nobody arguing on their behalf in Parliament.

Around the same time, John Hancock; the influential, wealthy, and generous merchant, was selected as one of Boston’s five “selectmen” in charge of governing Boston.  Initially Hancock looked to take a moderate stance on the “Stamp act” and resulting protests.  He wanted to maintain his standing as a loyal British subject. That began to change, and in 1765, possibly inspired by his friend John Adams, Hancock actively joined the resistance.  His popularity got him elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1766.

Igniting the Flames of Revolution

The passage of the “Townshend Acts” by British Parliament in 1767 levied new taxes on merchants in the colonies.  The acts established the “American Customs Board” as a way to catch more smugglers. Colonists rightfully felt that these acts posed a threat to their established tradition of self-government, leading to protests against “Taxation Without Representation” taking place across Massachusetts.  

These acts directly affected Hancock on April 9, 1768 when two customs agents, known as “tidesmen,” tried to board one of Hancock’s briggs, “The Lydia.” When Hancock realized they lacked a warrant, he refused them entry. Massachusetts Attorney General Jonathan Sewall ruled in Hancock’s favor. Some of Hancock’s admirers refer to this act as the “first physical resistance of British authority” and therefore credit Hancock with starting the revolution.

The “Townshend Acts” led to the “Boston Tea Party.”

Hancock came under further suspicion in 1768 when his ship Liberty  showed up to port carrying only ¼ of its capacity. Britain suspected he was unloading most of his haul in order to avoid taxes. Upon being brought up on charges, Hancock enlisted his old friend John Adams to defend him against the crown.  After a long, drawn out trial which took five months, the charges were inexplicably dropped.  

The incident with “Liberty” helped to reinforce the British decision to crack down on opposition throughout Massachusetts.

Revolution

Hancock’s political career was kicked into high gear in 1774, when  Massachusetts selected him to replace James Bowdoin at the second continental congress. On May 24, 1775, his colleagues named him the president of the Second Continental Congress.  

Hancock’s position was unique.  Not only was he the president of Congress, but Hancock simultaneously served as the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, giving him an enormous amount of power.  At the time, Massachusetts was Great Britain’s biggest problem, so by electing Hancock as their president, the Second Continental Congress was recognizing Hancock’s importance. Specifically his ability to effectively communicate with both rich moderates, and radical Patriots.

The thought of revolution made Congress a target. In April of 1775 the Lord of Dartmouth ordered British General Thomas Gage to arrest members of the Provincial Congress on charges of treason and rebellion. Feeling emboldened, on April 18, 1775 General Gage sent troops to Concord to seize military suppli

The battles of Lexington and Concord marked the first military engagements of the revolution.

es being stored by the colonists. Patriots also believed that Gage was heading to Lexington to arrest Hancock and Samuel Adams, who had been resting at Hancock’s old family home. This prompted Paul Revere to ride to Lexington to warn Hancock and Adams of impending danger. The two managed to escape right before the Battle of Lexington and Concord which became the first battle in the American Revolution. After the battle, General Gage issued a pardon to any colonist who would lay down their arms. The pardon excluded Hancock and Adams, which strengthened Patriot resolve.

 

John Hancock was so much more than the first signatory of the “Declaration of Independence.” He was a businessman, a philanthropist, an assemblyman, the president of the most important Congress in American history, and a rebel who would later serve as the first governor of Massachusetts. His unique position as a wealthy merchant who believed in revolution helped to energize Boston to rise up against the British.  This fourth of July, crack a cold one in honor of John Hancock.

Venezuela: How the Hell Did We Get Here?

 

 

Earlier this week Peru’s President, Pablo Kuczynski, warned that the civil and economic unrest in Venezuela could create a refugee crisis in South America.  He also expressed concern that the unrest was destined end in civil war.  

 

The news isn’t that shocking.  For years Venezuela has been on the verge of collapse; recently it’s gotten so bad that the Washington Post is even having trouble defending the country.  Gone are the days where we’ll see Bernie Sanders praising the Venezuelan economy; while Sean Penn,  Oliver Stone, and Michael Moore hardly make a peep.

 

The thing is, Venezuela shouldn’t be poor. They should have Latin America’s best economy. Instead, the citizens are killing each other over toilet paper.  So how the hell did the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves get this way?oil-reserves-by-country.jpg

 

A Brief History

 

The name “Venezuela” was given to the nations north coast by spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda, and means “Little Venice,” and the name stuck. Venezuela remained under Spanish control until July 5th, 1811.  That July, the majority of Venezuelan provinces declared independence from Spain.  

Over the next ten years, the Venezuelans fought the Spanish for control of the country. On June 4, 1821 Simon Bolivar, commander of the revolutionary forces, broke a ceasefire, defeating the Spanish at the Battle of Carabobo and securing Venezuelan independence. 

Modern Venezuela was founded in October 1958 after the three major parties; Accion Democratica (AD), Comite de Organizacion Politica Electoral Independiente (COPEI), Union Republicana Democratica (URD) signed the “Punto Fijo Pact” . The pact established the fact that the military worked for the people, not the other way around. The pact formally protected the right to vote.

In the mid-1990’s Venezuela was in economic turmoil; inflation and corruption ran wild, and people were starting to question the pact.  Seeing an opportunity, Hugo Chavez, who had led a failed rebellion in 1992, seized control of the country in 1998 (with military backing), officially becoming president in 1999.

What the Hell Happened?

Simply put, oil prices bottomed out in the mid 2000’s.  But that’s a bit simplistic, Venezuela’s real problem began much earlier in the 1960’s. In the 60’s, the Venezuelan government started to use protective tariffs to increase manufacturing at home, when some industries started struggling to keep pace, the government leaned on subsidizing those industries.  As Thomas Sowell points out in “Basic Economics”, subsidies hurt the economy by encouraging inefficient business practices.  It’s better, long-term, to let those businesses fail, or else you’re just kicking the can down the road.

The protective tariffs led-way to nationalizing iron ore and natural gas in the 1970’s.  During the 1970’s Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America; they had the region’s highest growth rates, some of the lowest levels of inequality, they were the best educated nation in the region,  and they had a stable democracy. The 1980’s, however, saw 3 coup attempts and an impeachment.  

So what happened? One of the conclusions drawn by experts is that  weak government institutions caused inflation and stagnation. Normally higher education levels lead to a better economy and higher wages. Experts, however, experts were surprised to discover that that wasn’t the case in Venezuela.

“One of the more surprising findings is related to the role of human capital. The chapter written by Corporación Andina de Fomento (Andean Development Corporation—CAF) economist Daniel Ortega and Harvard Kennedy School professor Lant Pritchett notes that Venezuela not only had a relatively well-educated population in the 1980s, but that education increased throughout the period in which growth decreased. As they point out, “If the wage-returns relationship had been stable over time, then the additional levels of education of workers should have raised wages by 58 percent.” Instead, wages declined by 70 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. The notion that education—a key component of human capital—has either no relationship or a negative relationship to real wages is counterintuitive.”

Ortega and Pritchett had determined that large-scale nationalization efforts undertaken by Hugo Chavez, had decreased the incentive to work.

After Hugo Chavez took office in 1999, he started implementing wide-scale nationalization policies culminating in 2002, after he fired 18,000 oil workers, seizing complete control over the oil industry.

At the same time Chavez dramatically increased government spending. Touting welfare programs for the poor, making him exceptionally popular. For the first few years, it worked.  Malnutrition rates, for example,  dropped from 21% in 1998 to 6% in 2007. The government attributed it to Chavez’s food initiatives. Implementing these initiatives meant government took over food production, centrally planning the entire thing. They re-distributed land, established price controls and quotas, all in the name of the collective good.

With so much of their economy under control of the government, it went to hell during the oil crisis of the mid-2000’s.  It doesn’t seem as though they’ve learned from their past. Today,Venezuela doesn’t release any economic statistics, but it’s estimated that inflation sits around 440%.

 

Venezuela’s tax revenue has decreased, even though it’s expenditures have risen.

Although Hugo Chavez died in 2013, the country is still run by his sycophant, Nicolas Maduro. Under Maduro’s leadership, the co

untry faces a shortage of everything. Venezuelans are describing hellish situations; Pittsbur

 

gh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli wrote of his homeland:

“There were IVs and bags of liquid medicine on the ground. Babies were screaming. Some of the older children, the toddlers, were moaning in pain. Doctors and hospital workers were stepping over little kids like it was nothing, like they were pieces of garbage.

It was human suffering on a scale that you hardly ever witness in person.”

Venezuela is the long-term effect of socialism. Anti-government protests have waged on for months, and are becoming increasingly more violent, maybe President Kucyznski was right. Maybe Venezuela is destined for civil war.  

Mississippi Has a Drug Problem, Jeff Sessions Thinks He Knows Why

 

 

 

On Saturday, the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, based out of Jackson, MS, released a detailed report outlining an uptick in deaths associated with drug overdoses. The number of deaths involving overdoses has more than doubled since 2000.  Among overdoses, the most common victims are white men between the ages of 25-54.  Among this demographic, deaths involving opioids has increased by 265% in the same period of time.  Not to be outdone, opioid deaths among women have increased by 400%, according to the CDC.  

 

According to the Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi is among several states that has more opioid prescriptions than citizens, in fact every citizen of Mississippi could take a prescription pill a day, for over sixty days, without bleeding the state dry.  

 

Opioid abuse is only the beginning. Prescription painkillers are expensive, and the cost to obtain some Oxycontin is so high, it prices many addicts out of the painkiller market; leaving them to turn to the much cheaper, much stronger world of heroin. Mississippi saw a record-high 211 deaths asso

ciated with opioids in 2016, the state has also seen a steady increase in heroin related deaths, and deaths associated with “drug poisoning.” The majority of this country’s heroin is imported by Mexican Cartels, who have been lacing their heroin with fentanyl; which is cheaper than heroin, and  100 times stronger than morphine.

 

Jeff Sessions has made a baffling connection between heroin, opiods, and marijuana.

This all leads to the letter sent by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to congressional leaders on June 13th.  In this letter, Sessions expresses his displeasure with the “Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment “ which limits the Justice Department’s ability to crack down on medical marijuana. Sessions cites the growing drug epidemic in this country. In his letter,  he doubts the effectiveness of medical marijuana, and says we need to do something about heroin in this country. So instead of taking power away from pharmaceutical companies, he wants to go after medical marijuana, an issue that a recent Quinnipiac survey  (ironically released on 4/20/17) found 94% support for among voting age Americans. In his letter to congressional leaders, the physical embodiment of the war on drugs states that there is no medical use for marijuana, which is in direct contrast  to two studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  The NIDA reported that:

 

Some preliminary studies have suggested that medical marijuana legalization might be associated with decreased prescription opioid use and overdose deaths, but researchers don’t have enough evidence yet to confirm this finding. For example, one NIDA-funded study suggested a link between medical marijuana legalization and fewer overdose deaths from prescription opioids.1 But this study didn’t show that medical marijuana legalization caused the decrease in deaths or that pain patients changed their drug-taking behavior.2,3 A more detailed NIDA-funded analysis showed that legally protected medical marijuana dispensaries, not just medical marijuana laws, were also associated with a decrease in the following:4

 

  • opioid prescribing
  • self-reports of opioid misuse
  • treatment admissions for opioid addiction

 

Additionally, data suggests that medical marijuana treatment may reduce the opioid dose prescribed for pain patients,5,6 and a recent study showed that availability of medical marijuana for Medicare patients reduced prescribing of medications, including opioids, for their pain.7 NIDA is funding additional studies to determine the link between medical marijuana use and the use or misuse of opioids for pain

 

It seems that if Jeff Sessions really wanted to take the nation’s drug epidemic seriously, than he would let states be laboratories of democracy.  Instead, because of his proclamation, states with a real problem, like Mississippi, are hesitant to explore other options to curb addiction.

More States are Ditching Occupational Licensing

 

I remember my first “job” as a kid; I was 12 years old, and wanted to buy the latest Madden game for my Playstation 2.  When I had asked my father for the money to buy the game, he refused; he wanted me to earn that money myself, and recommended I knock on some doors offering to cut some of my neighbors lawns for $10 a piece.  I was already cutting our grass, my father stated, may as well cut the McKenna’s grass as well.  After a few weeks I had saved up more than enough for my video game; it was a great way to make some extra money, while learning the value of hard work.  

My story is hardly unique; millions of kids across the country undertake similar endeavors every summer; this summer, however, the kids of Gardendale, Alabama  are learning another lesson: occupational licensing is expensive.  Gardendale, a northern suburb of Birmingham, recently passed a city ordinance demanding that kids pay $110 licensing fee in order to cut grass in their hometown.  

This type of occupational licensing is hardly uncommon; in fact, the “Bureau of Labor Statistics” reports that nearly a quarter of all professions in the United States requires some form of occupational licensing, that’s 20% higher than 1950, where only 5% of all professions required some sort of license.

Occupational licensing is a government regulation that requires people to receive some sort of state mandated training before they are allowed to enter a given profession.  While it may be understandable for a doctor or a lawyer; these licenses have expanded to cover everything from beauticians to taxi drivers.  

These licenses have had a profoundly negative effect on America’s low-skilled labor force, many of whom are immigrants or ex-convicts who cannot afford to, or simply are not allowed to, receive the proper licenses to legally practice their profession.  This forces these workers to make a difficult choice: pay to get licensed and possibly bankrupt yourself, or practice illegally and become a criminal.  

Let’s look at California, for example.  By 2000, 41% of manicurists in the state of California were Vietnamese immigrants, many of whom spoke very little, or no English, so they chose to enter an industry where they don’t necessarily need to speak English to effectively do their job.  According to state laws, however,  in order to become a licensed manicurist in the state of California, you need over 100 hours of training at a state approved school, plus at least 7 years of formal education in order to legally perform a manicure.  These classes are expensive and time consuming. Performing a manicure isn’t heart surgery, so why should society treat it like they’re similar?

In their book, “Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit” authors Chip Mellor and Dick Carpenter lay out a compelling argument; occupational licenses are not created by concerned citizens, but by a “bottlenecker” who lobbies for more regulation, not for consumer protection, but to make it harder for competition to enter a certain occupation, giving the “bottlenecker” an economic advantage by crushing potential competition. If you own a taxi company, for example, your primary goal for wanting occupational licenses to remain in tact isn’t your concern for the consumer, but concern for your bottom line.  If just anybody were allowed to charge people to take them home from the bar, then it would increase competition, driving down price, making their once profitable taxi company, a lot less profitable.  

Proponents of occupational licensing, like Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R), who recently tore up a bill that was meant to drastically reduce the number of occupational licenses in the state, claim that these licenses are necessary to protect the consumer from fraudulent, dangerous proprietors that are looking to harm the public.  Without these licensing boards, people like him seem to believe that a bar without a liquor license would be the downfall of society.

Others, like Libertarian Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke, whole-heartedly disagree.  Ebke recently introduced Legislative Bill 299 to the Nebraska state legislature.  Her legislation would phase out all licensing statutes on a 5 year cycle. Before those licensing statutes could be renewed, there would be an analysis of said statute to determine the effectiveness of the law. Her legislation would strive to find more market-friendly ways to deal with these labor issues.  While speaking to Authentic Liberty, Ebke told us the reasoning behind her bill:


“The assumption is that the market, or private certifications would be sufficient for most of the occupations out there, and that registration would be prudent to prevent fraud and things like that, and that only in a few instances would you need to have full-on licensing (and usually, like with medical professionals, because it’s necessary under federal law in order to be able to receive reimbursement).”

And Nebraska isn’t the only state that has made occupational licensing a priority for 2017, 19 states have introduced similar bills aimed at drastically reducing the power of state licensing boards.  

The issue of occupational licensing has, in the last few years, received bipartisan support.  Both President’s Obama and Trump have vocally supported these reform efforts, and in 2015 the Supreme Court ruled in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission  that state licensing boards were no longer exempt from federal antitrust legislation. In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy writes:

“Because a controlling number of the Board’s decisionmakers are active market participants in the occupation the Board regulates, the Board can invoke state-action antitrust immunity only if it was subject to active supervision by the State, and here that requirement is not met. “

Essentially, what Justice Kennedy is pointing out, is fairly obvious: if you are working in a particular profession that requires licensing, and you sit on a Board that decides who does, and does not receive said licensing, than you have a vested interest in denying licensing requests.  Which, in hindsight, is exceptionally obvious.  Why would you grant an occupational license to a potential competitor?

Hopefully, in 2017, we will see Nebraska, and 18 other states, take measures to drastically reduce these prohibitive practices.