I’m a bit busy in Philly today. Will probably be here for another hour. Eyes are burning but in spite of the pain, this weird New York Times article caught one of them. Take a look and see if it looks “off” to you too. It’s about a hair braider in Utah who can’t practice because she doesn’t have a license in cosmetology and doesn’t want to spend $16,000 to get one. Here’s the money quote:
This isn’t just a random Utah law. There are more than 1,000 licensed professions in the United States, partly a result of more than a century of legal work. As the country industrialized, state governments wanted to protect their citizens and create standards not just for lawyers and doctors but also for basic services. It didn’t take long for professional groups to find that they also stood to benefit from the regulations. Over the years, more and more started to lobby for licensing rules, often grandfathering in existing professionals while putting up high barriers to new competitors. In fact, businesses contorting regulation to their own benefit is so common that economists have a special name for it: regulatory capture. “Everyone assumes that private interests fight like crazy not to be regulated,” says Charles Wheelan, who teaches public policy at the University of Chicago. “But often, for businesses, regulation is your friend.”
What? Do you ever get the feeling that our feudal overlords will just not be satisfied until there are no labor or professional protections standing between them and us??
Up until now, we political junkies have always thought of regulatory capture as something really big an powerful financial institutions do to the agencies that regulate them, like making sure someone friendly to you gets to run one or making sure that YOU can pick the agency that regulates you or throwing out a potential offer of employment down the road (kinda sorta). We really haven’t seen it apply to little people. And, I’m sorry, I understand that all this woman does is braid hair but all that some manicurists do is paint nails and they have to get a license so that we know they are trained in safety and hygiene standards. It’s not too much to ask. If you don’t want to go through all of the training and licensing, don’t advertise to the world.
When I read this this morning, I immediately flashed back to a couple of years ago when the NYTimes was featuring long term unemployed people but only the brassy blonde, grossly overweight women asleep at their monitors or living in a seedy motel rooms were ever pictured. It’s almost like the Times *wanted* us to be unsympathetic. This article feels like a sleight of hand, making the generall public feel like they are the potential victims of regulatory capture if they want to start their own businesses. Oh, sure, it seems like an unfair inconvenience now until someone gets hurt because they stuck their hands in a warm tubful of infectious cuticle softener or have their kitchens ruined by a plumber who didn’t know how to compress a fitting. There is a reason for regulation. Maybe we need to evaluate, update and streamline them but small business people shouldn’t be put on the same level as big financials. It sounds like another death tax meme.
I don’t like it when the media starts making the news, or making news up, instead of just reporting it. The NYTimes has been guilty of so much misdirection in the past couple of decades and never held accountable. Who are they taking orders from? It’s getting to be embarrassing.
I only read if for the Krugman.
Poll of the day:
Brooke asked me this last night. According to her logic, I got it wrong.