“Obama’s Economics Team Is Taking on One of America’s Most Underrated Economic Problems”:
Occupational licensing rules, which require government approval (typically by a state government) before a person can practice a given profession, are one of the most under-discussed aspects of the American labor market. A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers argues that the way licensing is applied in practice often leads to higher prices, reduced opportunity, and more macroeconomic fragility.
Regulating entry into certain kinds of professions on the grounds of health and safety makes sense, but once a process is set up to exclude people from doing a job, incumbent practitioners have a strong economic incentive to use the licensing board as a means to eliminate competition. Today, more than a quarter of American workers need a license to do their job, representing a fivefold increase relative to the 1950s. …
The report also notes that licensing has in some cases become a cudgel with which to punish the already disadvantaged. Over a dozen states have rules that can make non-payment of student loans into grounds for license revocation — turning state licensing boards into debt collectors. And rules barring people with felony convictions from obtaining licenses are widespread, which tends to exacerbate all the problems with racial and socioeconomic disparities in the criminal justice system.
“For True Penal Reform, Focus on the Violent Offenders”:
In other words, for all the talk about nonviolent offenders, a majority of our prisoners have been convicted of a violent act, and even more have some history of violence. And because no one thinks we should set every drug or other nonviolent offender free, at some point we are going to have to reduce the punishments that violent offenders face if we really want to cut our breathtaking prison population down to size.
…But a strict requirement means that every building has to include parking whether residents want it or not. Typically, the cost of that parking then gets built into the rent. It might not seem like a big deal, but in Washington, DC, the underground spots many developers use to comply with these requirements each cost between $30,000 and $50,000 to build.
This makes housing less affordable — especially for low-income residents who are least likely to own cars in the first place. It also subsidizes driving, spurring further development that’s based around the car, such as stores that provide free parking, effectively building its cost into the price of their goods.
“The worst thing that many American cities have done, for low-income people, is create a world in which you need a car,” retired UCLA economist Donald Shoup told me in an interview last year. “Parking pushes everything farther apart, and even if you’re too poor to own a car, you have to pay for all the free parking you don’t use.”
And, because there are other enemies than the state (although, as some of the links above show, corporate interests and big government are thoroughly intertwined), “When Work Fails Families”:
Here is what I know: this young, married father and his wife have done a lot of things right, at least by the standards of many conservatives. They graduated from high school, got married, and bore their children within marriage. They aren’t “living off the government.” The problem is not that they need to work longer hours, or have a better work ethic, or make more responsible choices about romantic partners and children. And yet, they are a couple hundred dollars short on their rent.