Showing posts with label regulatory capture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label regulatory capture. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2019

Gentrification is A Land Use Problem

A growing concern on the left and especially among minority groups is demographic displacement, in certain cities and neighborhoods, caused by rising house costs associated with the influx of middle and upper-class, mostly white, young professionals. Due to economic illiteracy, the white yuppies and hipsters are blamed for rent hikes that make living in an area unaffordable for mainly poor minority tenants when, in fact, there is a third variable called land use policy (e.g. zoning ordinances, urban planning, property taxes) that has a much bigger impact on their rent. However, the left tends to frame this as a racial/cultural issue, which makes it simpler to talk about, but steers the conversation clear of any plausible solutions. Take for instance this gem that was featured on a liberal HBO show.

It’s basically when, for me, it’s a lot of white people come move into the hood and kick everybody out that’s there. I’ve been a witness of it since I was a small jitterbug so I mean now that I’m grown up and I’m seeing it, I understand it a little more,” he said during the interview with Maher, according to the news outlet.

Or how about these bozos, who protested an Austin, TX restaurant for moving into a building that was formerly occupied by a Mexican-American owned tire shop and using Spanish words to advertise their merchandise.

Activists with Defend our Hoodz — Defiende el Barrio on Friday announced via Facebook of their plans to protest outside Lou's Bodega on 1900 E. Cesar Chavez St. Since its recent opening by a pair of high-profile developers, the development has been widely lambasted by East Austin residents already anxiety-raddled over the brisk pace of gentrification that's resulted in soaring property values and residents' displacement.

The growth of commerce and population density will always raise land values; in this sense, gentrification is inevitable wherever new development occurs on relatively cheap land. Like any other market, higher demand raises the cost of housing, but since real property is fixed in supply to certain locations, unlike cars or smartphones, the market can only reach an equilibrium by lowering demand, which in the current case means raising rents. But the housing market does not have to be a sum-zero game. Removing artificial restrictions on the supply of housing can make it more affordable for low income minority renters. Zoning ordinances, such as those which restrict new development to single family housing, excluding group homes and multifamily complexes, require a minimum number of off street parking spaces, reducing space for potential residential units, restrict residential conversion, prohibiting the conversion of former office space into residential property, combined with lengthy permitting processes for new construction artificially inflate property values and rents in dense urban areas. Ordinances that dictate the minimum size of units, such as those in Oakland also drive up the cost of housing. In a white paper on housing development, the Obama admin noted that gentrification and other problems associated with surging housing costs are, for the most part, caused by local land use restrictions.

When new housing development is limited region-wide, and particularly precluded in neighborhoods with political capital to implement even stricter local barriers, the new housing that does get built tends to be disproportionally concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods. Rising rents region-wide can exacerbate that displacement.

The Obama Admin's Housing Development Toolkit drew from previous research on housing development, land use restrictions, and the widening gap between construction costs and new home prices. Previous research has concluded that for most U.S. regions, the price of new homes is only marginally greater than the construction costs. The exceptions are major cities, particularly in coastal regions, such as Los Angeles San Francisco, New York and Boston.

Researchers have also documented a sharp increase in the gap between home prices and construction costs, with stringent housing regulations now driving cost increases previously shaped by construction costs and quality improvements. Localized studies have supported these national conclusions – documenting sharp increases in zoning and other land use restrictions in metropolitan Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The effect that increased zoning restrictions place on housing costs is best illustrated by these examples. For instance, in 1960 Los Angeles was zoned to accommodate 10 million residents when it only had a population of 2.5 million people. Today, the city is only zoned to only accommodate 4.3 million people with a much larger population of about 4 million people. Of course, the same problem has transpired accross the California coast.

Emerging research has shown that in areas with high-cost housing such as California, zoning and other land-use controls contribute significantly to recent sharp cost increases, reflecting the increasing difficulty of obtaining regulatory approval for building new homes.

Most importantly, cities and states experiencing 'gentrification' should, along with reducing zoning restrictions, shift property taxes from building values onto location values. This would further incent new construction and improvements to existing residential properties, while simultaneously discouraging real-estate speculation and recapturing the value that new amenities and businesses add to rental and selling prices. This would ultimately generate more tax revenue that could be wisely spent improving public transit, reducing traffic congestion and the demand for more parking spaces, which is a win/win for the environment.

The left can either choose to whine about gentrification and stay in a state of perpetual victim-hood or take meaningful action by reforming their obtuse zoning regulations and property taxes instead of protesting people for following the incentives their own governments create or asking for more rent control and subsidized housing, which only creates a housing shortage by forcing prospective tenants into a queque for affordable units. Gentrification could, and should, become a bipartisan issue, but the left would have to abandon their race baiting tactics and stick to hard economic analysis for that to occur.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A License To Speak (part 1)

Source: Institute for Justice

In some states it is illegal to offer dietary advice without the government's permission. Florida resident, military spouse and health coach Heather Kokesch Del Castillo learned first hand how far state's will go to protect their cartelized industries. In this instance, she ran up against the Dietetics industry and the state was willing to censor her. Heather moved from California to Florida in the summer of 2015 after her husband, who is in the Air Force, was transferred to a base in Fort Walton Beach. Heather earned a private health-coaching certification in 2013 from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The state of California did not require Heather to become a licensed dietetician to give diet advice to willing clients, but Florida's Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Act defines 'dietetics' so broadly that it inlcudes offering any dietary advice for compensation. The Florida Department of Health first contacted Heather when they conducted a sting operation against her. One of their agents emailed heather pretending to be a man named Pat Smith who was looking for information that could help him personalize a weight loss program. In response, Heather offered him a free consultation and asked for his health history. The agent was not charged for any of the information provided to him and he was not solicited to buy anything from her. Heather does not sell supplements, perform diagnostic procedures, or claim to be a licensed dietetician. Her health coaching practice only involves talking to clients, on an individualized basis, about their food choices for compensation. She helps them sift through information that is already available to the public online. The Florida Department of Health subsquently issued a cease and desist and fined Heather $750 for giving dietary advice without a license. In order to continue her Health coaching service, Heather would have to spend 4 years getting a bachelors in Nutrition Science, complete 900 hours of internships, and pay $200 to take a board certified exam, but Heather has neither the time nor the money it would take to meet the state's requirements and neither does the vast majority of the population.

Similar cases have arisen in other states. Perhaps the worst example occured in North Carolina back in 2011 when the Board of Dietetics threatened a paleo blogger with imprisonment if he didn't stop offering dietary advice on his website or even through emails and phone calls. The blogger in question did not even demand compensation for his writing, he was simply offering his experience with different foods and supplements. If talking about food is restricted speech it is not hard to conceive that the government could place more contentious subjects behind licensing barriers. The recent fake news and Russian meddling hysteria, originally orchestrated by the Democratic establishment against the alternative media, offers ample opportunity for state governments to find fertile ground for the censorship of critics via licensing requirements.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Occupational Licensing Hurts Minorities and the Poor

Sources: Tennessee Has Fined Residents Nearly $100,000, Just For Braiding Hair
Occupational Licensing and the Poor and Disadvantaged

Something as innocuous as hair braiding, an art that has been practiced for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in many African cultures, is illegal in twenty-five state’s if it’s done for pay without the government’s permission. Fatou Diouf, an immigrant from Senegal who braids hair for a living, a skill she learned as a child, found out the hard way when the state of Tennessee imposed $16,000 in fines against her for hiring employees who did not have the government’s permission to braid hair. And she’s not alone. The Tennessee board of cosmetology and barber examiners has levied $100,000 in fines against braiders in more than 30 different salons simply for practicing their art without paying the board for a license to do so.

After examining meeting minutes and disciplinary actions for the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, the Institute for Justice has identified nearly $100,000 in fines levied against dozens of braiders and more than 30 different natural hair shops and salons since 2009. All of those violations were for unlicensed braiding; none were triggered by any health or sanitation violation.

Obtaining a license to braid hair in Tennessee is no easy feat. In fact, it’s unaffordable to some. To become a licensed “natural hair stylist” in Tennessee, braiders have to complete 300 hours of coursework in one of three Cosmetology schools within the state, which costs them $1,500 to $5,000 in tuition, just to learn a skill they already know and several other skills that aren’t relevant to their jobs.

Occupational licensing does not make hair braiding safer or improve the quality of the service. All it does is kill employment opportunities for black women and force some to work in the grey market. To demonstrate what’s possible without these needless market barriers, Mississippi was pressured to abandon a license requirement for hair braiding in 2016 after the Institute for Justice filed suit against the state. As of February, Tennessee only has 156 licensed braiders and natural hair stylists, though many more probably work without a license at home or in an established salon. In comparison, Mississippi has 2,600 legal braiders and only requires them to register with the department of health and pay a $25 administrative fee. The sheer absurdity of licensing hair braiders and the spotlight that has been shined on it has embarrassed state legislatures across the country into liberalizing the trade, but occupational licensing as a whole still maintains a firm stranglehold on economic growth in local economies, affecting one in three professions and more often than not keeping poor people and minorities out of decent paying jobs. The disparate effects of these market barriers can be seen in entry level occupations that provide some upward mobility. For instance, black or Hispanic non-white interior designers are 30% less likely to earn a college degree compared to white interior designers. Thus, states that require interior designers to have a college degree disproportionately exclude black and Hispanic designers. Similarly, licensing laws that require English proficiency and a minimum number of years of residency disproportionately exclude immigrants from legally working in their chosen career.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Abolish Occupational Licensing

Source: The Atlantic, License To Work

EMTs hold lives in their hands, yet 73 other occupations have greater average licensure burdens: barbers and cosmetologists, home entertainment installers, interior designers, log scalers, manicurists and numerous contractor designations … while the average cosmetologist must complete 386 days of training, the average EMT must complete a mere 34. Even the average tree trimmer must complete more than 16 times the amount of education and experience.

In the USSA, there doesn't seem to be any gig that you can do without needing a team of bureaucrats to sign off on it, however trivial it may be in the grand scheme of 'public safety.' For instance, to install home entertainment systems in Connecticut you have to earn a high school diploma, pay a $185 application fee, pass a test, and work as an apprentice for one year. To legally sell flowers in Louisiana, one has to pay a $189 application fee and pass a florist exam. All 50 states require a license to become a barber. On average, a prospective barber must pay $154 in fees, sit out a year for education, and pass two exams just to legally cut other peoples' hair. Even something as mundane as cutting grass for pay, something teenagers often do for recreational spending, requires a business license in a growing number of cities. The absurdity of occupational licensing laws knows no bounds. As I have reported in previous Red Tape Times posts, people have been threatened with fines and sometimes prison for offering dietary advice without the government's permission, teaching makeup without the government's permission, critiquing traffic lights without the government's permission, playing music in a bar without the government's permission, selling teeth whitening products without the government's permission, and selling home cooked meals to neighbors without the government's permission (also here). At this point, a list of jobs you're allowed to do without the government's permission would be much shorter than a list of jobs you need their permission to do. State and local governments, in conjuction with industry licensing boards, are making an ever growing number of services illegal without a government shakedown. This creates barriers for innovation, growth, and self-employment opportunities for the working class Americans. A radical measure is needed to end this insanity: abolish occupational licensing, along with the state licensing boards that implement them and the industry lobbyists that control them. It won't be pretty, initially, but over time we will see how consumers can join together to regulate the quality of the services they're provide. The first conception may be rating systems specific to certain kinds of services, and this may evolve into private credentialing over time. Eliminating the rigid top down structure of licensing boards would open up multiple avenues for keeping proprietors honest and competent without creating burdensome hurdles for honest and competent people trying to become proprietors.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 38)

Licensed out: How Government licensing keeps Americans from working

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

40 years ago only 5% of Americans needed a license to work in their field. Today a quarter of Americans need an occupational license to work. Occupational licensure isn't just required for prestigious jobs such as being a doctor or lawyer; it is now
mandatory for such innocuous jobs as braiding hair,
applying makeup, selling flowers , and even cutting grass
The growth of occupational licensure has cost consumers $203B in higher prices and the economy 2.9M fewer jobs.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 37)

North Carolina Prohibits Immigrant Woman From Teaching Makeup Without The Government's Permission

Source: Forbes

Jasna, a war refugee from the Balkans, became a licensed esthetician and began practicing makeup artistry, in North Carolina, in 2010. Last October, she attempted to start an academy to teach makeup techniques to other licensed estheticians and amateurs, but was prohibited from doing so by the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Arts Examiners Chief of Enforcement. After she announced the openning of the Dahlia Institute of Makeup Artistry on Facebook, the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Arts Examiners caught wind of it and threatened her with fines unless she obtained an esthetician teacher license. Obtaining an esthetician teacher license would require Jasna to buy $10,000 worth of equipment she wouldn't need such as a thermal wax system, a facial vaporizer, and a galvanic current apparatus. On top of the unnecessary capital expenditures, Jasna would also be required to teach the state's 600 hour esthetician curriculum, only a fraction of which addresses makeup. Of the 170 performances the state requires students to complete its esthetician curriculum, only 30 are related to makeup application. In other words, Jasna would have to teach other arts in an academy exclusively devoted to makeup. North Carolina is one of thirty-six states that require a license to apply makeup for pay. Most states require people to get three to nine months of education and experience, pass two exams, and pay an average of $116 in fees just to apply makeup for pay.

The Institute for Justice is contesting North Carolina's esthetician teacher licensing requirement on 1st amendment grounds, although this doesn't get to the heart of the matter. While the occupational licensing mandate for teaching makeup certainly stiffles free speech it imposes a much greater economic burden on women interested in cosmetics, especially lower class immigrant women. The opportunity and financial cost the state imposes on would be makeup artist is the most burdensome on this demographic who don't necessarily have the luxury of spending hundreds of hours on course work and thousands of dollars on education and licensing for something that could be learned for free on Youtube. Of course, the fact that occupational licensing tends to hurt the poor is not what makes it horrendous. The principle of the matter is that you shouldn't need the government's permission to make a living: to provide for your needs and the needs of others, especially doing something as mundane as teaching about makeup. The liberty to work, is the liberty to provide food, shelter, clothing, and savings for yourself, and perhaps some luxury items if you can afford them. To prohibit a person from working is to prevent them from meeting their basic needs and saving for future needs at gun point; in short, it is to rob them of their dignity and force them into a subordinate position.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Full Decriminalization Is The Only Way To End The War On Drugs

Last Thursday, Fox5 reported that twelve people were arrested for growing and selling cannabis in San Deigo. In most parts of the country this doesn't seem like anything extraordinary. Of course they got arrested for selling cannabis, it's a schedule 1 substance. However, recreational cannabis is legal in California. They weren't arrested for the cannabis, but for growing and selling it without a government permit. As long as the state remains the gate keeper of who can enter the cannabis market people will still be incarcerated for growing, selling, distributing, and ingesting the plant even if it isn't the electorate's intention. Only full deregulation of the growing, selling, distributing, and ingesting of cannabis will keep non-violent and otherwise benign offenders out of the crimminal training grounds known as the US prison system, which is also filled with illicit drugs despite the totalitarian control governments wield in them. Allowing people to enter the cannabis business without the government's permission would turn it into a true buyers market driving down prices and profit margins, which would make it less lucrative for organized crime who can undercut permited businesses and more transparent to consumers for whom there is already a wealth of information available on cannabis. It was government prohibition that created the black market and made it a windfall for organized crime in the first place by causing artifical scarcity. Erecting a new barrier in its place will keep the black market in existence. Full decriminalization would not exclude an age restriction; selling to persons under 21 could still be punished as contributing to the delinquency of a minor as it is with alcohol and tobacco. It would also not exclude legal sanctions against people who drive while high or while hot boxing. This could be considered reckless driving or a DUI under certain circumstances.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 35)

Louisville Forces Businesses To Ask Competitors' Permission Before Operating

Source: Institute for Justice

In this particular case, the city of Louisville has a statute on the books that prohibits food trucks from operating within 150 feet of the vicinity of a restaurant that sells similar food, unless they obtain prior permission from that restaurant. Of course, restaurants like any other business want as little competition as possible and are going to deny food trucks permission to do business nearby. In aggregate this has shut out food trucks from having a viable opportunity to do business in the city, and has threatened the livelihoods of many food truck owners. A lot entrepreneurs interested in getting into the food industry cannot afford to rent commercial space for a restaurant; owning a food truck makes it easier to become self-employed in the service industry. It would be understandable if the city prohibited food trucks from parking in front of restaurants, but baring them from parking across the street or a block down reeks of favoritism towards restaurants.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 34)

Wisconsin Bans Ungraded Butter Despite Lack of Health Risk

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

Minerva Dairy, a family owned cheese and butter dairy that produces handcrafted artisanal butter can sell its products in all 49 other states. Wisconsin has recently begun enforcing a 40 year old statute that requires all butter sold within the state to be either USDA graded or graded by the state of Wisconsin, but not all diaries can afford the process. In order to be graded, Minerva would have to store up a week's worth of butter and pay for a USDA grader to be flown in every week. Minerva already has all of the business licenses required to make dairy products and operates in a USDA approved facility. The dubious grading process ensures every batch meets the USDA's standards for commodity butter, but Minerva doesn't make a commodity butter and most butters sold in the U.S. are not USDA graded. More than likely the Dairy lobby is behind the enforcement of this statute, just as they pushed to ban the 'Milk' label for non-dairy milks, to legislate away out of state competition. Regardless, interstate protectionism is illegal under the dormant commerce clause which prohibits states from discriminating against or impeding interstate commerce. More importantly, moral law grants every person the right to engage in voluntary transactions provided they do not impose a cost of their transaction on an uninvolved third party. It is plain that buying and selling artisanal cheese in no way exceeds the mutual limits of equal freedom while restricting such activity does.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 32)

Zoning Board Renders Man's Parcel Unusable Without Just Compensation

Should regulatory changes that prevent one from developing their land be considered 'taking property for public use' without just compensation?

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

Elliot Severson purchased a parcel of commercially zoned land in the city of Sammamish, WA that was large enough to build a restaurant or convenience store on, but the city prevented him from developing this parcel by gradually imposing land use restrictions that made development impossible. From the standpoint of moral law it is clear that the city unjustly denied him the opportunity to enjoy the full use of his property, which he had a reasonable expectation to develop, and imposed an unwarranted economic burden on him without compensating him for the opportunity cost of not being able to use his parcel. The city argues that they are not obliged to reimburse Mr. Severson because he was permitted to develop his nearby parcels in the past. But this is akin to arguing that a government can seize a man's house, through eminent domain, without compensating him for fair market value because he owns another house or two nearby. The constitutionality of their actions is unclear since the constitution provides a weaker conception of property rights protections than what is entailed in moral law. Undoubtedly Severson still legally owns the property and changes in a city's zoning ordinance isn't necessarily an example of regulatory taking, since laws that inadvertently lower property values are not considered regulatory taking under Penn Central Transportation v. NYC. If the supreme court hears this case the outcome may ultimately depend on the ruling in Murr v. Wisconsin, a similar case involving the regulatory taking of a parcel of land by combining the plantiff's two adjacent parcels effectively lowering the land value by 90%.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 31)

Source: Institute for Justice

The state of Minnesota has an obscure statute that bans wineries from making wine unless the majority of the grapes used in their wine production are grown instate. This statute effectively imposes a trade barrier against out of state grapes. The drawbacks that result from this trade restriction are several fold. It forces wineries to use mostly grapes they grow in the harsh Minnesota weather, which makes it harder for them to expand their business, makes the wine more expensive and reduces the variety of wines they can produce for consumers. But most importantly, Minnesota's interstate trade restriction on out of state grapes is unconstitutional. Article 1 Section 8 gives congress the sole power to regulate interstate commerce. The dormant commerce clause implies, among other things, that states are prohibited from impeding interstate commerce by discriminating against out of state commerce. State's aren't allowed to restrict trade from other states for the same reason they aren't allowed to set their own immigration policies; they are not independent countries. Our federalist system delegates the authority necessary to maintain a country (e.g. national defense, immigration, trade policy) to the federal government and the rest is delegated to the states and municipal governments. Fortunately, the Institute for Justice has filed suit against the state of Minnesota on behalf of a handful of vineyards/wineries to overturn this statute.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 29)

Seattle Robs Landlords of Their Right To Choose Tenants

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

Back on August 9th, 2016, the Seattle city council passed the first in time rule, which mandates that landlords of any capacity must rent to the first qualified candidate who applies for a unit. The statute went into effect on January 1st. Since landlords are no longer allowed to assess the risks involved for candidates who meet broad criteria like not having pets and being able to pay, this has raised rents and made it harder for candidates to meet the criteria for tenancy. Small scale landlords who rent out units on their own residence have been saddled with the greatest burden since they are more dependent on rental income from one tenant than corporate landlords who rent out hundreds of units. One sketchy tenant could make them lose a month's worth of rental income and put them in the hole. Their personal safety would also be put at greater risk, especially for female landlords, since they are no longer able to assess the character of prospective tenants. A few small scale landlords have spoken out against the new mandate. Their grievances run the gamut of issues from personal safety to the financial risks of renting to delinquent tenants. The Pacific Legal Foundation has filed suit against the city of Seattle on behalf of Marilyn Yim, a small scale landlord who lives in one of her own triplex units with her family.

We are, literally, mom-and-pop property owners renting our home to make Seattle affordable for our family and our tenants, and the council’s actions hurt not only us but the very people they keep saying they want to help,” said Mrs. Yim. “We aren’t corporate landlords sitting on large capital reserves or with hundreds of rentals to spread our risk. One bad tenant could take us years to recover from financially. The primary way we have to manage our risk is by carefully selecting tenants and collecting adequate deposits up front. The new city rule deprives us of that flexibility. With this added, undue risk, we can no longer afford to charge below-market rents or give a break to good people who are just starting out or rebuilding from their own setbacks.

No business would be told they have to hire the first person to show up with a decent resume,” said Ms. Lyles. “This law would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so frightening!I inherited a small amount of money — and used the food bank for several years — in order to purchase my rental,” she recounts. “Now, as a female landlord, I’m very concerned about the ‘first in time’ mandate. Women are taught from childhood to ‘trust our gut’; I’m now denied that option. I am terrified of no longer having a choice over whom I entrust with the majority of my yearly income (and life savings), not to mention my personal safety. There are preexisting laws on the books protecting tenants from discrimination; this new one comes at too high a price: robbing landlords of protection from potentially dangerous situations.

The city’s first in time mandate puts an undue burden on small landlords who manage their property after-hours and on weekends, and do not have the capital to hire a management company or absorb the cost of an expensive eviction,” said Scott Davis. “We will be forced to make strict screening requirements to protect our investment, exposure and liability, since we are no longer able to use our best judgment and reasonable discretion in selecting a tenant. The result will be to exclude good tenants who are able to make a good impression.This legislation only rewards the fastest applicant and does nothing to protect the people it seeks to help,” he continued. “As a result of this new rule, we have substantially raised our rents across the board with the anticipation of being forced to hire a property management company and avoid the future sting operations of the city and the convoluted rules that are being implemented.

The intention of the first in time rule was to eliminate unconscious bias against protected classes in the rental market, even though there are already anti-discrimination laws on the book. The statute, though perhaps well meaning, had the opposite effect of what was intended. One of its unintended effects is that it put lower income earners at a greater disadvantage than before the statute was enacted. Another unintended effect is that it favors native english speakers over immigrants, who are more likely to be disadvantaged by a language barrier in the application process. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is not the intentions of policies, but their effects in the long run that make them good or bad, and all of the long run effects of such sweeping policies as this statute cannot be accurately predicted. For this reason, governments of any level should stick to simple and straightforward measures that do not unnecessarily burden their citizens. Shifting taxes onto the unearned increment from land would make rental housing more affordable, and thus more readily available, than forcing landlords to take tenants on a first come first serve basis. The latter merely covers up the symptoms while the former strikes at the root of the problem.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 28)

The Dairy Lobby Is Threatening To Ban Almond, Soy, and Coconut Milk Labels

Source: Institute for Justice

The Dairy Lobby is pushing for a bill, called the Dairy Pride Act, that would force the FDA to ban products from being labeled as milk that do not fit the legal definition of milk. Milk is legally defined as the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows (notice the term was exclusively defined to the benefit of the dairy industry) ;however, the FDA has thus far refused to enforce this definition as evident by the fact that we can buy almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk and other dairy substitute products in the grocery store. Supporters of the bill claim that it would prevent consumers from being deceived by dairy substitutes that are labeled as milk, but I'm pretty sure people who drink almond milk and soy milk are aware that it doesn't come from cows; besides, cows aren't the only animals that can produce lacteal secretions. Will the Dairy Lobby not be content until the term breast milk is also illegal? As IJ notes, consumption of dairy milk has declined 37% over the past four decades while Almond milk sales have risen 250% just in the last five years. Other non-dairy milks have also risen in popularity so I think this is more of a case of sore loser-itus.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 21)

A License To Cut Hair 

The asininity of occupational licensure may have reached its peak. In a contemptuous display of the lengths cartelized industries will go to inflate their profits, the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology opened an investigation against a Tucson cosmetology student for providing free haircuts to homeless people without a license. In Arizona, it is illegal for parents to cut their children's hair, to provide a free haircut to a homeless persons (who otherwise couldn't afford one) or to cut hair without a license outside of an approved barbershop or salon in general. Barbering and cosmetology licensing laws are defined so vaguely that just about anyone who 'cuts, clips and trims hair' or who 'applies oils and creams', even without compensation, is guilty of a class one misdemeanor. For his own charity, the aforementioned cosmetology student could be denied a career he has been trained years for and wind up on the street again.

This incident is only one of several in a growing trend of attacks on private charity by local governments. The federal government has failed in its capacity to eliminate poverty so it is only natural that the spontaneous sympathy of private citizens would step in to fill the void. Bottom - up solutions such as building small houses for the homeless and providing them with free meals has been stunted at the local level by anal retentive bureaucrats whose sole purpose in life is to enforce frivolous codes that don't add anything to human progress.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump Cites Non-Existent Law In Executive Order And Weakens Appointee Ethics Commitments

In an executive order from January 28 titled Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Appointees, Trump referenced the term 'particular matter' used in the appointee ethics pledge to U.S.C. title 28 section 207, which does not exist
Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee: 
"6. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts. 
(r) "Particular matter" shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 28, United States Code, and section 2635.402(b)(3) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.
The executive order prohibits executive branch employees from lobbying the specific executive agency they worked for within five years of their termination. However, as Propublica points out, the pledge does not prohibit appointees from working at executive agencies they formerly lobbied; it only prohibits them from participating in any 'particular matter involving specific parties' that they formerly lobbied for. The Office of Government Ethics defines particular matter as 'any matter that involves deliberation, decision or action that is focused upon the interests of specific persons, or a discrete and identifiable class of persons.' Particular matters may also include matters that do not involve specific parties, though Trump restricts the applicability to the first category, which is particular matters that involve specific parties. Former lobbyists that fall into the second category, particular matters that do not involve specific parties, include those who 'at least focus on the interests of a discrete and identifiable class of persons, such as a particular industry or profession.' Thus, former lobbyists of the second category can participate in particular matters that they formerly lobbied for. According to Propublica, both categories were excluded from participating in particular matters they formerly lobbied for under the Obama administration's ethics pledge, which meant that former lobbyists were not permitted to work in the executive agencies they formerly lobbied with the exception of a few waivers.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Federal District Court Rules That Laws Can Be Hidden Behind Paywalls

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

A federal district court has ruled that private standards organizations that write regulations, which are incorporated into federal law, can use copyright to deny access to knowledge of those regulations.The ruling came against, a site that publishes government documents on federal and state laws including regulations that become law through incorporation by reference: regulations that are initially created by private standards organizations and incorporated into federal law, but are not published in the federal code. Six private standards organizations filed suit against for what they claim is copyright infringement. As the EFF pointed out, this sets a precedent for a more secretive government since lobbyists and special interest groups often write draft bills that are passed verbatim. Citizens already break laws they don’t know about, but this will simply exacerbate the problem.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 19)

District Judge Upholds Teeth Whitening Monopoly in Georgia 

The U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia upheld a regulation requiring approval from the Dental Board (and formal training in Dental School) to sell teeth whitening products. Now she is probably correct in her opinion that it isn't unconstitutional to prohibit entrepreneurs from selling teeth whitening products; the constitution is after all not an exhaustive list of our natural rights. Therefore, it shouldn't be contested on constitutional grounds, which does very little to preserve economic freedom, but like all occupational licensure laws, it should be challenged on economic grounds in the Georgia General Assembly. IJ already found that occupational licensure cost consumers in Wisconsin $2B and 31,000 jobs annually, for low to moderate income earners, so if they are going to contest the Dental Board's licensing requirement for selling teeth whitening products, they should do so with research they've already done.

The regulation is so asinine that theoretically Walgreens could be shut down for selling teeth whitening products. In general, transactions between consenting adults should be left to the purview of consenting adults. The government's place is to step in when there is fraud or breach of contract, which in this woman's case she committed neither. She did not claim to be a licensed dentist. If consumers were willing to take the risk of buying her product that is their prerogative.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Escaping The False Dilemma of Mainstream Politics

If you stick around this blog long enough, you will notice that there is a common theme in every entry. Yes I am anti-government for the most part and condemn every violation of Constitutional or moral law at the federal, state, county and municipal level, but government is not the only aggressor. The recent DAPL conflict and the earlier KeyStone XL Pipeline conflict demonstrated that corporations could seize private property under the false pretense of providing a public utility: an action made legal by the ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, a case in which the private developer never made good on their promises after they evicted the homeowners. The war in Afghanistan is mostly a private war, in which private contractors outnumber troops 3 to 1, or about 29,000 contractors to 9,000 troops. Chiquita hired death squads to murder labor activists in Colombia. If all governments hypothetically collapsed the next biggest entities, public corporations, would fill in the power vacuum, and we would be left with a despotism even less accountable to the people.

The common theme here is not anti-government, but opposition to the concentration of power, within any agent or corporate body, whether governmental or private. Due to the volatile nature of U.S. politics, I am constantly refining what this means. Up until 2014, the  Democratic party was the dominant contender in Washington, but the rise of populism, the election of Donald Trump, and a Republican sweep of both the House and Senate, along with a pending Supreme Court nominee, has not only shifted U.S. politics to the right, it has also split the left and right further apart. But no matter who is in charge, the concentration of power in Washington is always abused to the fullest extent tolerable by the electorate. No matter whether we have a Republican administration or a Democratic one, our constitutional rights are gradually diminished, the scope of the executive office grows, as does the overall size of the federal government, and lobbyists set their policy priorities. Their values and rhetoric may be different, but their outcomes are the same. Both share a common strategy of divide and conquer and as long as we are distracted by recycled platitudes about 'personal responsibility' and 'christian values' or 'social responsibility' and 'lgbtq rights', we are inevitably stuck in a vicious cycle of choosing lesser evils.

Expediency is the mother of despotism 

Neither party has a coherent theory of justice. No matter who is in charge, their arguments for expanding the scope of their office is usually the same; it's for 'national security', 'public safety' or 'job growth'. All are appeals to expediency. The soundness of their arguments is inconsequential; their shoddy justifications are not meant to appeal to our rationality. Fear of an external threat and anxiety over financial security is the best way to garner compliance with expedient policies. By keeping the electorate in a constant state of fear and anxiety, the political class can bypass the high road*, avoiding conscious processing, and appeal to their survival emotions (amygdala). The intended result is a collectivist mentality willing to surrender natural rights for 'security' and 'the general welfare' until the external threat or source of anxiety is removed, which is never the intention of people in power, because political power is addictive* and tends to reinforce itself. The craving for it can only be gratified by incremental power at the expense of the electorate, who will eventually find themselves under the heel of an absolutist state if they don't speak out against the early warning signs.  The electorate is being gradually conditioned to except incremental government oversight over their affairs, so that they seem commonplace.

* According to Ledoux Theory of Emotion there are two pathways for emotion: the direct pathway (low road) from thalamus to amygdala and the indirect pathway (high road) from thalamus through the cerebral cortex to the amygdala.

*Dr. Ian Robertson, in his study of baboon hierarchies, has found that feelings of power/dominance over others triggers the release of dopamine, which reinforces power grabbing behavior.

Politics is Just Another Form of Tribalism

It is a curious thing how the anti-war left went silent once Obama took over and expanded Bush's wars and continued to build his surveillance state, but now that these powers have been handed over to Trump they've completely lost their mind. The left was silent when Obama sent special forces to fight in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen without congressional approval and killed hundreds of civilians through drone warfare. The same conservatives that loudly protested Obamacare were cheering when Bush signed the largest expansion of Medicare into law. The same conservatives were silent and even dismissive when Bush turned a $120B surplus into a $1.4T deficit and added $6T to the national debt, but pretended to be deficit hawks under the Obama administration. For both sides, any policy they admonish when they don't control the White House is ok as long as it's their guy doing it. They are unprincipled men whose only precept is in-group loyalty at any cost. This is not to suggest that both parties are the same; a cursory glance at their platforms would demonstrate otherwise. What is meant here is that how party lines are drawn depends on who is in power; in particular, it depends on who controls the executive office. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 14)

Originally Posted on Experience Project on January 3, 2016

An absurd anti-discrimination law in NYC makes using an improper pronoun a crime punishable by a $250,000 fine (for employers) and mandates that employers cover sex-reassignment surgery which can cost upwards of six figures as well. The unintended consequences of this legal measure are numerous. 1.) It will make potential transvestite employees a six-figure liability and therefore much less likely to be hired. 2.) Regulatory capture: this will benefit larger corporations the most ; small start-ups that can't compile with the law will go under and the larger businesses will therefore be protected from competition. 3.) It upholds a punitive justice system that is unfit for our current social state

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Red Tape Times (article 7)

Growing your own vegetables is a right and no you don't need a permit for that

The 11th circuit court judge of Florida, Monica Gordo, upheld a Miami Shores ordinance that prohibits residents from growing vegetable gardens in their front yard. The case was appealed by homeowners Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, who had grown vegetables in their front yard for 17 years. In Monica Gordo's opinion growing your own food is not a 'right' and dictating aesthetics is a legitimate purpose of government.

The Bill of rights is not an exhaustive list of rights, in fact it is not really a list of rights so much as it is a list of restrictions on federal power. A right, if we are to be consistent, is not whatever the government says it is, otherwise the word would be completely meaningless; the number and definition of rights would change like the tides depending on whether any of them presented an inconvenience or nuance to the political class. A right is 1) a normative claim and 2) an implication of moral law: the law of equal liberty. An activity, like growing a vegetable garden in one's own front yard, is a right if it does not violate equal liberty, that is to say, it does not prevent others from exercising the same freedom to act as they wish on their own property. It is plainly obvious that growing a vegetable garden in one's own front yard does not prevent others from exercising the same freedom to act as they wish, in their own front yards or on the side walk or in the street, and therefore can be considered a right. Growing your own vegetables, in your own front yard, is not only a right, it is in the best interest of society that people should grow their own food instead of buying glyphosate laced food from subsidized agribusinesses. The legitimate purpose of government is the administration of justice not aesthetics. Leave aesthetics to the artists and philosophers.