Category: Technology and Regulation

Getting the government’s permission to work—occupational licensing—hurts both consumers and entrepreneurs. That’s the conclusion of two new reports, one a study conducted by the Institute for Justice and the other a survey by the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com. As the reports note, in the 1950s, only one in 20 U.S. workers needed government permission to pursue their chosen occupation. Today, it is closer to one in three. Yet research to date provides little evidence that licensing protects public health and safety or improves products and services:
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The recent oral arguments presented before the Supreme Court about ObamaCare’s individual mandate have exposed a profound difference in how American’s conceive of liberty. In the the New York Times, Adam Liptak provides a revealing example:
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“Unless incentives suddenly stopped mattering during this recession, says Casey B. Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, “it appears that the expanding social safety net explains some of the excess nonemployment among unmarried women who are heads of households.”
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In a political climate dominated by debates about individual mandates and restrictions on religious freedoms, an issue like road privatization isn’t likely to be on the top of anyone’s list of major concerns. But the excellent post on “The Mirage of Free-Market Roads” by Timothy B. Lee, a writer with Ars Technica and the Cato Institute, is worth reading even if you don’t care about toll roads. Lee provides an intriguing example of why we need to think clearly about how we apply principles to policy:
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“The state’s appetite to find solutions from the center lures it to create positive rights out of thin air,” says Ismael Hernandez, president and founder of the Freedom and Virtue Institute, “even at the expense of a narrower space for civil society.”
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Michael Gerson on what the Obama administration’s view of religious liberty shares with John Locke:

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“The past year has marked a shift in religious liberty debates,” notes Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today, “one that previously centered on hiring rights but became focused on health care requirements.” Bailey put together a helpful timeline that shows a number of actions the government took in the past year, setting precedents and priorities on various issues affecting religious freedom.