March 03, 2005

Guilds Alive & Kicking in 2005 USA
Suck On It, ACLU

Guilds, dating in Europe to the Medieval Period and earlier, were created by professionals to control their profession. The guild would collectively set standards for the craft, hold meetings of the members, control who could be a member of the guild rigorously, exclude people from even practicing the craft, and tried to hold exclusive training rights over apprentices. The compliance of the local government was essential, of course. It was essentially a cartel except it held many social advantages, not just economic ones. If you thought they were gone, then you're kidding yourself. We've made a lot of progress freeing up the market for competition, but as usualy busybody regulators are trying to better our lives by limiting our choices.

    If you want to become a florist in Louisiana, a state law requires you to take a licensing exam. Your flowers are evaluated by licensed florists on subjective criteria such as whether they are "spaced effectively" and have the "proper focal point." More than half of the applicants fail. Do unlicensed florists present a big menace? No, many believe the real explanation is that Louisiana florists want to limit their competition. In Oklahoma a similar law requires that anyone who wants to sell caskets must first obtain a funeral director's license and embalm 25 bodies. These laws and others like them can seem unfair to entrepreneurs, and in recent years a nonprofit law firm called the Institute for Justice has helped small businesses fight them.
The ACLU is often called - by dimwitted Democrats and narrow-sighted 'progressives' - a libertarian organization. This is far from the truth. First of all, the ACLU's social views are more radical and social-egalitarian than libertarian. They don't want to eliminate laws and coercion, they want to crowd out religious types and make way for secularism. Taken to extremes, secularism can be just as oppressive and boneheaded as any religion (especially if you loosen the definition of religion to include fanatically-held secularist beliefs). The ACLU definitely does some libertarian-compatible stuff, mostly on drugs and so forth, but a lot of the time it's pushing a state-friendly far-left agenda. Of course, on guns and economics the ACLU is advancing the idea that state intrusion into both is A-OK. Libertarian my ass.

The Institute for Justice is the only national libertarian law firm. It focuses on private property, economic liberty, school choice and the first amendment but does other cases as well. It was involved in the recent Kelo case before the Supreme Court involving the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment (they lost, upholding the almost unlimited right of states to take property for any reason). Out of all the cases, the economic liberty ones seem to have the most amusing - and frustrating - back-stories. For example:

    What profession is so dangerous and difficult that the State of Mississippi requires at least 3,200 hours of classroom instruction before it can be practiced legally? Neither paramedics nor firefighters undergo so much training—but that’s how much Mississippi demands for anyone who wants to teach the art of African-style hairbraiding, thanks to the State’s tangled mess of cosmetology laws.
And also this one currently before the Supreme Court:

    In 24 states, it is illegal for Swedenburg to ship a case of her award-winning Chardonnay home to the many wine enthusiasts from around the country who visit her family farm each year for tastings. In most of those states, however, such direct-to-consumer wine shipments from in-state wineries are perfectly legal. These discriminatory laws exist only to protect the monopoly power of large, politically powerful liquor wholesalers, who control the distribution of alcohol into most states—and who have no incentive to distribute the products of boutique vintners like Swedenburg.
This case they won:

    Nevada’s onerous and arbitrary limousine licensing procedure, declared an unconstitutional violation of due process rights by Judge Parraguirre, was a classic case of regulatory “capture” by the regulated. The TSA allowed existing limousine companies to “intervene” in the administrative hearings for license applications from new companies; in other words, it allowed existing companies to protest in a government forum the entrance of new competitors into the market. Not surprisingly, from 1979 to 1998—the year the Institute for Justice filed suit against the agency to break up its state-enforced cartel—only four new companies were admitted to the market and they were only permitted to operate under onerous restrictions.
There's a lot to be done in this area, especially since the 1930s and the horrible reversal of Lochner v. New York (though that line of cases held some inconsistencies itself). The Institute for Justice is the REAL libertarian advocacy law firm, and they're helping real people all the time to run their own lives without arbitrary and corrupted government influence. Support the Institute for Justice in their work.


Anonymous Ed. said...

The wine case is an interesting one. New York supports keeping its law. Ironically, New York's wine regions (North Fork and Finger Lakes) would probably stand to gain if it could export to other states. We're not Napa Valley, but we've got more wine country than most other states.

It's the fear of change, I suppose.

March 04, 2005 8:30 AM  

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