Any blow struck for economic liberty is worth celebrating, even if the person wielding the hammer is not, shall we say, a fan of Rothbardian libertarianism. But there is encouraging news from Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which pressured the Missouri legislature to repeal its licensing laws regarding moving companies:
Under the old law, a person applying for permission to operate a moving company was required to submit to a licensing scheme under which existing moving companies were given the privilege of basically vetoing the application. We challenged that law on behalf of St. Louis entrepreneur Michael Munie, and argued the case in federal district court in April. But in the meantime, state lawmakers passed legislation repealing the law, and this afternoon, Governor Nixon signed that bill, thus opening the road for economic opportunity in the Show Me State.
Baby steps, to be sure — Missouri and most other states have licensing laws for dozens of occupations, some imposing absurd educational requirements (in Texas, for example, “shampoo specialists” at hair salons must have 150 hours of training before they can even test for their license) and exorbitant costs for both training and the licensing process itself. None of these laws actually do anything to ensure quality service for consumers; they exist solely to protect incumbents from competition. These laws can’t disappear quickly enough, and kudos to the PLF and other organizations, such as the Institute for Justice, for continuing to challenge them.
“Politicians treat firefighters like pawns. When my house burned down, I learned how valuable public servants can be.”
That’s the tagline of an article on Salon.com titled “Thank God for Taxes.” Naturally the author cannot imagine how firefighting could be better as a private business. It never occurs to him. He just praises public “servants” and calls for more taxes.1
If Andrew Leonard could imagine private firefighting at all, he would probably imagine something like the rival firefighters in 19th century America that fought violently over who would get to put out the fire while the house burned down. But of course, this was caused not by a free market in firefighting but rather a combination of public property (fire hydrants, roads), lack of private property rights enforcement (sabotaged fire engines), and political machines (Tammany Hall) — politicians like Boss Tweed using neighborhood firefighting departments for their own political gain.
We don’t want your money,
let the motherfucker burn!
Or he might imagine private firefighters refusing to put out a fire until the owner paid some astronomical fee, which the owner couldn’t afford on the spot. In fact, he might vaguely recall an incident in Tennessee last December2 in which firefighters let a home burn down because the owner failed to pay a mere $75. “This is what would happen in a free market!” he’d cry, not recalling, or never bothering to learn, the details of the incident. But this was a government firefighting department rigidly adhering to bureaucratic internal rules,3 as government agencies are wont to do, not a private business responding to profit incentives.