Institute for Justice
As a libertarian, I hear a lot about how licensing and regulation is important. “We need this for our protection,” they argue. That may be, in some cases. But in others? Hardly. Licensing and regulation have long since run beyond anything approaching reasonable.
It’s easy to say we need licensing. Doctors, someone will say, are a prime example. Licensing supposedly insures that they know what they’re doing. Contractors are another, some will argue. Heaven forbid you use an unlicensed general contractor. After all, your house could collapse.
I’m not going to get into doctors, because that discussion could take all day on its own and never quite get resolves. Contractors are another matter entirely. In Dougherty County, Georgia, getting a Contractor’s License requires an outlay of money based on what you think you’ll make and how many people you think you’ll employ. No skills test is required. No competency has to be shown. You just get the license and then start trying to get jobs.
And you know what? Houses don’t collapse in Dougherty County any more frequently than anywhere else.
The thing is, I can actually see the point of those who favor licensing on contractors. I disagree with them, but I see where they’re coming from on that. There are a myriad of other licenses that are required to perform a profession that are ridiculous.
For one, barbers and hair stylists have to be licensed in many places (are there any places that don’t require it?). Now, this may have made sense in the Middle Ages when barbers also performed surgery, but now? The absolute worst thing I can get from an unlicensed barber is a horrible hair cut. Guess what? I’ve gotten that form licensed barbers too.
Who can talk to people? If you said anyone, you’re right. Now, who can get paid to talk to people? Well, that is apparently a bit trickier. You see, the city of New Orleans thinks that folks who want to serve as a tour guide in the Big Easy should be licensed. Yeah, that makes sense.
Luckily, a group of these tour guides are taking issue with these regulations and fighting it out in court with the help of the Institute for Justice:
In New Orleans, it is a crime to charge people for a talking tour without first getting permission from the government.
City officials require every tour guide to pass a history exam, undergo a drug test and an FBI criminal background check every two years merely for speaking. People who give tours without a license face fines up to $300 per occurrence and five months in jail.
A $300 fine and five months in jail? Really? What’s the worst that bad tour guide can do? Tell someone that Bourbon Street is actually four blocks the wrong direction? Honestly?
Yes, I know that a tour guide can ruin someone’s experience in a community if they don’t know what they’re talking about. However, why is the city government even involved? An independent tourism commission could do the exact same thing, and then advise hotels that it’s in their best interests to guide tourists to use certified tour guides for the optimal experience of New Orleans. Then it’s buyer beware.
The Internal Revenue Service is a thorn in everyone’s side. Americans dread April 15th every year, when they have to file their tax return. But now they’re not only hounding taxpayers, but also tax preparers.
According to a new policy implemented by the IRS, smaller, independent tax preparers are now required to become licensed by them and submit to annual “continuing education.” While bigger firms support the licensing requirements, it would force many of these small businesses to close their doors.
Thankfully, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, is fighting back for these tax preparers by filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the IRS’s authority to impose such a substanial regulatory burden:
I mentioned in the post on Supreme Court’s decision overturning Calfornia’s ban on sales of violent video games to minors that there was another First Amendment case that they announced yesterday. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that Arizona’s campaign finance law, which provided taxpayer-funding for candidates that were being outspent by their opponents and independent groups. is unconstitutional
The Supreme Court on Monday issued a 5-4 decision striking down part of an Arizona law providing public funds for campaigns.
The case, Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, was closely watched by advocates for reducing the role of money in politics. They feared that the high court, which has issued sweeping rulings striking down campaign finance restrictions as violations of free speech, would use the case to rule broadly on the constitutionality of programs that provide public money to candidates.
Instead, the court issued a relatively narrow ruling striking down a provision in the Arizona law that provided additional funds to publicly funded candidates running against opponents who outspend them outside the system.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, agreed, writing: “We hold that Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and, therefore, violates the First Amendment.”
Below is a collection of several links that we didn’t get around to writing about, but still wanted to post for readers to examine. The stories typically range from news about prominent figures in the liberty movement, national politics, the nanny state, foreign policy and free markets.
The folks over at the Institute for Justice are calling out MoveOn.org for their hypocrisy in its protests of Target. In case you haven’t heard, the retailer is under fire for giving donations to Tom Emmer, a Republican that is opposes gay rights.
MoveOn.org’s premise is that a corporation shouldn’t be giving money to a candidate, playing off of the populist, anti-political speech sentiment that was a result of the Citizens United decision. The Institute for Justice calls the anti-liberty PAC out:
As we’ve noted, Target has drawn heavy fire for its donation to an organization that’s speaking out in support of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposes gay marriage. One of the latest examples of this criticism is a humorous viral video featuring a flash mob that performs a song called “Target Ain’t People”—set to the tune of Depeche Mode’s hit song “People are People”—in the middle of a Target store as employees and customers look on with varying degrees of bemusement.
I’ve been so busy the last couple of days that I’m just now getting a chance to weigh in on Philadelphia’s “blogger tax.” In case you haven’t heard, the city is charging bloggers $300, the cost of a business liscence:
For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut.
In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.
“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.
It would be one thing if Bess’ website were, well, an actual business, or if the amount of money the city wanted didn’t outpace her earnings six-fold. Sure, the city has its rules; and yes, cash-strapped cities can’t very well ignore potential sources of income. But at the same time, there must be some room for discretion and common sense.
When Bess pressed her case to officials with the city’s now-closed tax amnesty program, she says, “I was told to hire an accountant.”
Here is the debate: