Scott Sumner  

Why we debate the unimportant issues

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Alex Tabarrok has a post discussing the laws protecting auto dealers from competition. One thing I notice is that when I discuss this sort of crazy law in the faculty dining room, many non-economists will tell me that they have never even heard of the regulation. On the other hand the non-economists do tend to be familiar with other ongoing policy debates, say the minimum wage issue or the Keystone pipeline. Off the top of my head here are a few other examples of nutty regulations that people tend to be unaware of:

1. Federal coastal flood insurance.
2. Zoning laws forcing the construction of parking lots
3. Restrictions on taxi medallions
4. Quotas on sugar imports
5. Huge urban/rural water price differentials
6. Restrictions of the ability of foreign air carriers to serve US markets
7. Occupational licensing restrictions where there is no public policy purpose

There must be 1000s of nutty regulations like the ones cited above. Many people don't know about these regulations, even well educated people. Why not?

In my view the basic problem is that the regulations are so obviously nutty that you can't find any respectably pundit to defend them. Who would defend the auto dealer cartel except the auto dealers themselves? (Alex says the NYT does, but let's assume that was temporary insanity on their part.) Because they are regulations, you might expect support on the left. But as a general rule even people on the left don't support government regulations that have neither an efficiency nor an equity justification.

OK, so perhaps the issues don't get discussed because they are non-controversial. But that still doesn't explain why they are more important than the issues that are debated by pundits. First let's define "important." Because I am a utilitarian, I believe important issues are those where the expected effect of a change in policy on the public's well-being is especially large. And in general, that will occur in cases where the issue is relatively uncontroversial. If it's a slam dunk that a crazy policy should be abandoned, then there are clear gains to the public in doing so.

In contrast, consider controversial policy initiatives like the minimum wage, ObamaCare, and Keystone. Ask why are they controversial? Clearly it's because you can find lots of really smart pundits on each side of the issue. But that means there must be really good arguments on each side of the issue. For instance, proponents of the minimum wage point to the gains for low income people, and studies casting doubt on the employment effects. Those on the other side (including me) point to other studies, and the basic presumption in economics that making a resource more costly will reduce the quantity demanded of that resource.

The carbon tax is supported by lots of people on both the left and the right, but gets much less news coverage than Keystone, or fracking, or other issues that are closer calls. Because the average educated non-economist gets their information from the media, which covers controversial issues, they have no idea that occupational licensing laws are a much bigger deal than the low minimum wage. Or that the relaxation of zoning rules is much more effective than rent controls. Or that carbon taxes are far better than recycling laws, anti-fracking rules, CAFE standards, and all the rest of the command and control apparatus.

When I talk to people about the proposed hike in the minimum wage I sometimes mention wage subsidies as an alternative. Once again, many people have never heard of the idea, even though proposals like Morgan Warstler's wage subsidy proposal has support from pundits on both sides of the minimum wage debate. They've never heard of occupational restrictions that keep poor unemployed people from using their car as a cab, or setting up a beauty shop in their home, or parking a food truck next to a busy office. So the public is fully informed about dubious policy initiatives like the minimum wage, and kept completely in the dark about much more promising approaches. That doesn't seem very smart.

So far I've talked about pundits. But what about politicians? It turns out that they tend to agree just as much as the pundits. Where the pundits are divided, the politicians are divided. But here's something exceedingly strange. Where the pundits agree, the politicians also agree, but on the exact opposite policy view! They support all those crazy regulations, both the Democrats and the GOP.

Now here's a question: Is the media corrupt to play along with this game? Should the media ridicule politicians who support policies that are clearly evil just as much as they ridicule politicians who say nutty things about rape, or race? Should they try to make America more like Scandinavia, where corruption is not socially accepted? I don't know the answer; I'm simply throwing it out as a question.

One possibility is that the media is just as clueless as the average highly educated person. The NYT's support for the nutty auto dealer cartel suggests that may be true. In which case things are even more hopeless than I feared.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (35 to date)
John Thacker writes:

Some of these, like flood insurance or sugar quotas, seem to be classic cases where all the passionate intensity (and tendency to change one's vote on the basis of the issue) is on the side with the worse arguments.

Name anyone, anyone, who voted for McCain over Obama because McCain was and is so much better on sugar quotas, considering that more important than the other issues. McCain even talked about it (and sugar ethanol imports) in the debates. By contrast, sugar (beet and cane) farmers definitely did give money and vote for Obama because of that.

I do realize that Bryan has shown that people overall in general are supportive of the idea of "helping farmers," but in my experience they tend to be unfamiliar with exactly the absurd form the policies take. For example, people will assume that since the government helps sugar farmers, that must at least make sugar cheaper, right? Or that flood insurance must have some kind of regulation to keep people from building in dangerous locations repeatedly.

Sam writes:

The depressing thing, I think, is that such a small fraction of the issues you mention can be "efficiently" dealt with. To elaborate, numbers 1, 4, and 6 on your list could be rectified by a visionary Congress. (To those, I'd add repealing the Jones Act, another travesty of legislation I recently learned about on NPR's Planet Money.) But numbers 2, 3, 4, and 7 (as well as the auto dealer laws) would need to be legislated in hundreds, if not thousands, of state and municipal jurisdictions. And the odds of successfully changing policy, I'd estimate, decrease with the size of the jurisdiction. Why? The best argument against these policies is diffuse costs that substantially exceed the concentrated benefits. But when those benefits accrue to your neighbor, your friend, your boss, etc., the logic of this argument may be overwhelmed by the salience of the "harm" to the people who lose their rents.

At the national level, there could be some hope. The 98% of people who aren't farmers can (rightly) get upset by agricultural subsidies, especially the unphotogenic kind which amounts to paying people not to produce their crop. (Even more so since agricultural production has become more consolidated and the producers less easy to empathize with.) Surely other national cases can be addressed similarly.

But for those bad policies which need to be addressed locally, I'm confident that we'll be stuck with them essentially forever.

[Minor edit, with commenter's permission.--Econlib Ed.]

John Thacker writes:

Congress just voted (in a bipartisan fashion, with the Democrats nearly unanimously, and a little over 50% of the Republicans) to massively lower and repeal most of the reforms to flood insurance adopted just two years ago. Almost no article I've seen mentions that the increases were only on second homes, as first homes were exempt from the increases in the original bill.

Steve writes:

The main function of political debate isn't to maximize the welfare of the public- it's to help people bond with their tribe and fight against the other tribe. Issues that don't break down along party lines don't serve this purpose, so people tend to avoid talking about them.

' Is the media corrupt to play along with this game?'

Probably not any more corrupt than the other players in the game. Having observed many journalists, up close and personal, they're well aware of their career incentives, and report accordingly.

For a delightful example of the opposite, listen to this debate between self-described (and self-absorbed) venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Seattle radio talk host Dori Monson. Scroll down and click on the 'play' arrow.

Especially amusing, near the very end, where the self-made, from hard-scrabble background, Monson tells the son of inherited wealth that he thinks he's just feeling guilty about his good fortune.

Scott Sumner writes:

Steve, Is that equally true in Scandinavia and Russia? If not, why not?

awp writes:

#2 in particular as that is something that I am a semi-activist on, although I think my comments often apply in general.

When I am speaking/listening to local leftists/progressives, we often agree on the stupidity of many local development and transportation development ordinances, parking minimums in the central city in particular. My response is "well then we need to get rid of these rules". Their response is often/almost always "We need more rules on top of these rules". So that their preferred method is to allow developers to have less parking, but only if they do a whole checklist of other stuff, and only if they are in certain areas. In cities with zoning these are called overlays.

Also a lot of conservatives and libertarians forget their small government principles when it comes to local development. Every time there is a dezoning or upzoning proposal one hears a lot of cries of "you want to force everyone to live in MANHATTAN" and "keep your government hands off my single family home, 0.2 Floor-to-area zone".

So to generalize
It often seems, to me, that
Liberal responses to bad government is often to call for more government.
People with proclaimed small government tendencies are not necessarily 100% consistent with small government preferences.

But, I believe, the main reason behind the continued existence of so many policies that are both inefficient and inequitable is the simple issue of concentrated benefits/diffuse costs.

Brian E. writes:
Many people don't know about these regulations, even well educated people. Why not?
Perhaps your well educated friends need to read more Bastiat.

When regulations affect a small minority, they are essentially invisible. The academics you meet in the faculty lunchroom will likely be well versed in the regulations that affect them personally, and have little or no knowledge of the regulations that affect their neighbors or the people they do business with everyday.

brendan writes:

Eliezer wrote "Policy debates should not appear one sided", lamenting peoples' tendency to focus on only their preferred side of the pro-con ledger on a given policy. And he asked: why do people want policy debates to appear one sided, even when they're not?

Scott talks here about genuinely one-sided policies. Asks why the public doesn't care, and why pols are on exact wrong side. Two separate explanations.

1) Public doesn't care because of Robin Hanson explanation. Politics is war; arguments are soldiers; soldiers with dual loyalties aren't useful. [see the NYT comment section for what motivates these trolls]

2) Pols are against because of concentrated benefit diffuse cost problem.

Dunno, that seems the basics.

Scott said:

"Steve, Is that equally true in Scandinavia and Russia? If not, why not?"

There are parts of the US where folks sell fruit at unattended stands; and other parts with murder rates approaching Venezuela levels. People are different, tough to change. But that doesn't mean the Robin Hanson explanation of the stuff you describe isn't basically right; and that different groups and organizations fall on different parts of that spectrum.

[comment edited with permission of commenter.--Econlib Ed.]

Brandon Berg writes:

I'm not sure that flood insurance belongs on this list. Yes, it's nuts, but my perception is that it's quite popular, even among people who don't benefit from it. "But if government didn't subsidize it, nobody would be able to afford it!" they say, as if that were an argument for rather than against subsidies.

Hazel Meade writes:

The reason people are unaware of these things is because the mainstream media does not talk about them. The reason the mainstream media doesn't talk about them is because they lean left, and hence are concerned with other issues.

The media talks alot about issues that are of concern to the left. They may attempt to cover both sides fairly, but they are still selecting WHICH issues to spend their time reporting about. They don't spend time reporting about issues that people on the left aren't interested in. Over-regulation is one of those things that people on the left just aren't interested in.

William Bruce writes:

Brandon, do you believe that Bryan Caplan's evidence (amongst others) of widespread irrationality in public policy does not apply to the majority of the issues? Everything that polling data and personal experience tell me runs in the opposite direction, namely, that the demos is strident and grotesquely ignorant in its support of "farmers," "sustainable development," "consumer protection," etc.

More broadly, I think we have done a great disservice in our analysis and presentation of these issues, as if Public Choice and "rational irrationality" were dichotomous.

Hazel Meade writes:

I want to say something else about this too...

From a certain perspective, people on the left OUGHT to be concerned about the effects of things like overregulation, because they often unjustly impact workers in disfavored economic sectors.

For instance, the regulations on auto dealers negatively impact employees of Tesla motors relative to employees of other auto makers.

If you are really interested in justice and fairness in economic life, then you ought to be against regulations that arbitrarily benefit some people at other's expense.

Michael Byrnes writes:

Hazel Meade wrote:

"The reason people are unaware of these things is because the mainstream media does not talk about them. The reason the mainstream media doesn't talk about them is because they lean left, and hence are concerned with other issues."

Sorry, but no. This isn't a partisan issue that can be blamed on the left.

There are plenty of conservatives in mainstream media (despite its leftward slant), and by and large those conservatives are no more interested in these issues than the left is. Someone like George Will, by himself, could bring more attention to many these issues if he wanted to.

"If you are really interested in justice and fairness in economic life, then you ought to be against regulations that arbitrarily benefit some people at other's expense. "

This, on the other hand, is absolutely true (as is your assertion that the left should be concerned about these issues).

John Becker writes:

There are really dumb laws out there that are utterly inexplicable. Check out what's in your state.

To me, this suggests that the issue isn't really concentrated benefits and deferred costs for a lot of these-although that's clearly what's going on with things like sugar import quotas and prohibitions on foreign air carriers-it has to do with not enough people at one time generating enough buzz to overcome bureaucratic inertia. It's very unlikely that millions of people are going to be galvanized by a discussion about overturning some silly law. The news network that talks about that is gonna lose out to the one talking about Obamacare every time.

Scott Sumner writes:

awp, Yes, the public choice problem is part of it.

brendan, Of course the point of blogging is to change things. Russia wasn't always like Russia, and Denmark wasn't always like Denmark. On one level I agree with many "public choice" explanations, but on another level I must consider myself in some sense "exogenous" to the model. If not I might as well just shoot myself. What's the point of living if you have zero effect on the world?

BTW. My paper "The Great Danes" starts off with your fruit stand example, so I certainly understand your point. But I also know that some reporters read my posts, so I hope it nudges them in a slightly less corrupt direction.

Hazel, I don't agree. Yglesias talks about many of these issues, and he's on the left. On the other hand I doubt Fox News pays much attention, as their viewers own auto dealerships and coastal homes in Florida.

libfree writes:

Special interests have huge voting incentives for politicians that don't support their pet regulation. The rest of us are just not anywhere near as motivated about any single one of these issues.

Michael Strong writes:

A distinct but related issue is the enormous blind spot regarding excessive regulation in the developing world. Anyone who spends a few minutes looking at the World Bank's Doing Business index can spot absurd barriers to international trade, absurd barriers to launching a new business, etc. Simeon Djankov co-authored a paper (titled "Regulation and Growth") estimating that moving from the bottom quartile to the top quartile on the Doing Business index implies a 2.3 percentage point increase in annual growth rates.

Depending on one's assumptions and the time horizon one focuses on, the elimination of stupid, arbitrary, and completely indefensible obstacles to business could bring tens or hundreds of millions of people out of poverty (or over longer time horizons billions). Seventeen documents to import a good into the Congo? More than $500 to get a document notarized in Mexico, Senegal, and most other Spanish and French civil law countries? Restrictions on firing employees in most poor nations that are far more restrictive than are those found in any state in the U.S. (As my wife, a Senegalese entrepreneur, notes, "If I can't fire you, I can't hire you")?

And yet I've never yet found either a Rawlsian intellectual nor an anti-poverty activist who is even remotely aware of this approach to poverty alleviation.

I met with Peter Singer, regarded as one of the world's top public intellectuals, and the author of what development economist Dani Rodrik describes as one of the top five books on globalization. Singer had never heard of this information. He had had the impression, as do most progressives, that developing nations were under-regulated laissez-faire free-for-alls. When he countered with the example of how the absence of regulation in Bangladesh resulted in factory collapses and more than a thousand deaths, he was quite surprised when I pointed out that Bangladeshi building and labor codes were actually quite rigorous. Inadequate regulation was not the cause of the deaths - instead one could make the case that the absurd over-regulation in Bangladesh maintains the rent-seeking power structure that allows corrupt crony capitalists ignore regulations with impunity. A case can be made that a state that moved from a Northian "closed access" to a free market "open access" society is more likely to enforce what regulations it does have.

Most of academia would claim to care about reducing poverty. Yet oddly most of them seem remarkably ignorant regarding some of the simplest approaches to reducing poverty.

Larry writes:

"More hopeless"? Say it ain't so! Scott you're (ever so slowly) moving the ball on monetary policy. Be of good cheer! Think of not how much better it should be but how much worse it used to be.

Separately, Rauch's Demosclerosis is a thoroughgoing buzz kill should you start to feel too cheerful about the state of governance in our republic.

Musk's attempts to disrupt this particular bit of rent-seeking is kind of cool, because he has such a sweet piece of candy to dangle in front of people. If Tesla continues to dazzle, those walls may yet come tumbling down. With that bit of metaphor overload, I decamp. Cheers!

Michael Byrnes writes:

@ Larry

I don't see Elon Musk winning on this issue - unless he wins in a special interest type way (i.e. gets some kind of regulatory carve out that lets him sell direct but does not disrupt other dealers).

If he won broadly, that alone would be more valuable than the cars he sells.

Andrew_FL writes:

For some people at least, not commentating on these issues is because they need to remain relevant to hold people's attention, which unfortunately means holding yourself hostage to the topic of the day. Now those who control the topic of the day on the other has to feel far more contemptuous of them. Individual pundits might very much like to expound on these topics if given the chance. I know would. But for some of them, the problem is, that's not "what everyone is talking about."

Ari writes:

Scott, I don't know if you are reading these comments anymore but the debate here in Finland is imo. a lot more pragmatic. There's not so much of that ideological hyperbole. I think it is because of the overeducation of people and highly shared values. Obviously anything emotionally charging takes the spotlight.

I see only few smart politicians talking about things like occupational licensing though. The most followed blogging politician, a member of Green Party actually, mentioned this issue. He has quite good grasp of economics, and actually told that our politics would be a lot better if most of the MP's would understand comparative advantage.

Scott Sumner writes:

Everyone, Lots of good points. Just to reiterate, the question that intrigues me is not why bad policies exist, but why highly educated people know nothing about them, but are better informed about more debatable policy options (which are often less bad.)

'Squeaky wheel...grease.'

Eliezer Yudkowsky writes:

To the commenter who already remarked that arguments are soldiers and generals have little interest in a soldier that fights for both sides, I add that politics is a branch of entertainment shown on the sports channel, and there isn't much interest in team sports where both teams play on the same side.

What all of your neglected issues fundamentally have in common is that they are not entertaining, and politics is consumed as a form of entertainment.

That said, can we please have some loud, repeated yelling about land value taxes? Like every economist in the history of time has agreed this would be a good idea, and it's not in the Overton Window. Come May, I'll be paying $2500/month in rent for two rooms and an attic in a shared house 0.6 miles from my workplace and a train station, in Berkeley. I estimate that $2200/month of this rent is land value and should be going to reduce my tax bill. Having to pay land rent AND income tax is like having to pay taxes to two large governments at once!

Gordon writes:

This is a great question you raised, Scott. I'm wondering if it could be that much of the public pays the greatest attention to issues that generate an immediate emotional response in them. News organizations then focus mostly on stories that generate the greatest passionate reactions in the public.

Bob writes:

The issues you describe could come directly from The Logic of Collective Action, which I'm sure you've read.

For those of you that haven't: There are groups of people that gain a whole lot from sugar quotas, professional licensing, zoning and limiting taxi medallions. Their livelihoods are at stake. the rest of us get hurt by those limitations, but it's either very little or at the very least, not in a way that is readily apparent to the public. One group will vote against law changes, and put a lot of money in campaigns against someone that votes against their interests. How many people would actually contribute any significant amount of money to someone that promises to get rid of taxi medallion requirements in their city?

So why would the media try to make this issues public? The media is there to make money, just like everyone else. Riling against taxi drivers isn't going to get many eyeballs, and thus much money. They'd be better off covering the disappearance of some little blond girl or something like that.

Want a better world? Realign incentives.

awp writes:

Scott Sumner,

To rephrase my comment to respond to your actual, and more interesting, question.

You are assuming that everyone agrees these are horrible policies based on stated principles as follows

leftist want equality and to help the poor
conservatives want less government

So you get the Pundits agreeing that if these were your actual principles we should all agree that these are horrible policies.

Whereas, in my other example, for the elites of both sides that already own structures in desirable areas self interest leads to the continuation of zoning. Or, principles that in practice make zoning an optimal policy. For liberals, the love of govt. for conservatives, the distaste of others*.

*Before anyone gets onto me for my description of conservatives in this context you need to understand that zoning in suburbia is almost laughably explicitly anti-poor, and zoning is inherently anti-poor in almost all occurrences. Talk to any conservative who lives in a nice area/suburb and it doesn't take long to get them to come out and say they don't want to get rid of zoning because then poor people will be able to move in and go to school with their kids. This is a concern for liberals too, but it takes a lot more work to get them to admit it.

So you need to go through these and examine your assumption of agreement on horribleness in terms of self interest and acting principles (AP) as opposed to stated principles.

my guesses at true APs that lead to agreement with policies that are horrible by stated principle.

1. Federal coastal flood insurance.
liberal AP-bleeding heart, market idiocy
conservative AP-pro-homeowner, market idiocy
2. Zoning laws forcing the construction of parking lots
liberal AP- anti-market, pro-govt
conservative AP- pro-auto, pro-suburbia
3. Restrictions on taxi medallions
liberal AP-dunno
4. Quotas on sugar imports
liberal AP- pro-native, pro-farmer, market idiocy
conservative- pro-native, pro-farmer, market idiocy
5. Huge urban/rural water price differentials
liberal AP- anti-market, pro-farmer
conservative AP - pro-farmer, pro-rurality
6. Restrictions of the ability of foreign air carriers to serve US markets
liberal AP- pro-native, market idiocy
conservative AP- pro-native, market idiocy
7. Occupational licensing restrictions where there is no public policy purpose
liberal AP-dunno
conservative AP-dunno

dunno-can't think of a principled 'principle' that could justify, so it probably exists because politicians need votes and voters are rationally ignorant(concentration/diffusion, seen/unseen). Although this begs your question as to why people would find it rational to be ignorant about such horrible policies while informing them selves about marginal policies.

Scott Sumner writes:

Eliezer, Yes, a land tax is a great idea.

Bob, You haven't addressed my argument. Why do other issues get debated? Why doesn't the "logic of collective action" apply to fracking, or minimum wage laws, or Obamacare? They get discussed.

There are interested parties on both sides of all these issues. In addition, the concentrated interests often lose these fights, as when California raised the top rate of income taxes.

You said:

"Want a better world? Realign incentives."

That I agree with! For instance, stop making medical care tax deductible, and the interest groups fighting waste will suddenly become far more powerful.

awp, As I said to Bob, that doesn't explain the issues that do get debated.

Bob writes:

First, I didn't really disagree with your core set of facts. I believe that we'd be better off if we had more rational policies on those kinds of questions, and that a media that discusses the options would get us closer to having said policies in place. What I am saying is that hoping for a media that doesn't act in its own best interest is like hoping for a Fed that can steer the economy properly by looking at lagging indicators, like they kind of do now. It's not the right way to solve the problem.

The negatives of Fracking and Obamacare get discussed because they bring in a whole lot more eyeballs. First, we got people using fracking before the media caught on to it. Then, we started to get all kinds of reports about things people care about, like people claiming their drinking water tasted foul/was unsafe/downright poisonous. That's why we hear about fracking.

With Obamacare, media coverage had very little to do with the underlying economic arguments, but with the basic identity questions that bring eyeballs. People will stop you from choosing the doctor you want! prices will go up! The government gets involved into our own personal business! The fear card is pretty strong in that one, on both sides of the argument, so the media covers it. Remember people asking the government to stay out of their Medicare.

But the examples you did describe have absolutely no emotional pull, and the economic pull is just not visible to your average Joe. The fact that I have to get a license to become a barber doesn't affect me personally in a meaningful way. Its effects are far too complex to be compelling. Removing barriers to economic freedom are only going to move people if they actually want to cross the barrier themselves.

So we do not debate those issues because we can't sell to the people that there is much to gain or lose from those decisions. Without at least some people that can believe that they'd gain a whole lot with that different policy, there's just no story. Once again, a by the book situation where the good of the few defeats the good of the many, by a landslide. The same association that makes sure you need a license to be a barber is the same one you have to join to be a barber, so you can't become a member of the advantaged class without joining the group that funds the advantage itself: It's a textbook example.

So, do you really think that people would actually watch a debate in which we argue that licensing for hairdressers is hurting the economy, or do you believe that media companies should just spend a bunch of airtime on things that will not bring viewers?

And again, I agree with you on what policies would be ideal. Your post just fails to account for why the media should actually do what we prefer.

Maybe you can nag Tyler Cowen to make a post about it? This is the same game theory question he seems to post about so much.

awp writes:

Policies that get debated have disagreement and matter on some level. You picked your list based on the assumption that they matter and everyone agrees they are bad. What if out of self interest or actual principle the type of people we are talking about all actually think they are good policies. Why would you expect debate about policies that everyone believes (based on self interest or actual principles) are good.

Andy Hallman writes:

Scott, the media are unlikely to champion one of the causes you listed because it could make the outlets look biased, like they have an agenda. If they just report on the existing controversies, rather than look for new ones, who can accuse them of bias?

Floccina writes:

Great post. I have to decided to avoid debating issues that involve values and rather try to convince people of how much corruptions like those listed hurt their own cause. We may not be able have more libertarian Government but perhaps we could have smarter more efficient Government.

RCF writes:

Hazel Meade writes:

For instance, the regulations on auto dealers negatively impact employees of Tesla motors relative to employees of other auto makers.

Not really, especially since the regulations already existed before they were hired, and so that was priced into their compensation. Costs are borne most by those who can't avoid them. Employees can work for another company, and thus can avoid them. It's the owners of Telsa and people who want to buy them who bear most of the costs.

Michael Strong writes:

Restrictions on firing employees in most poor nations that are far more restrictive than are those found in any state in the U.S. (As my wife, a Senegalese entrepreneur, notes, "If I can't fire you, I can't hire you")?
And when Romney said that he likes being able to fire people, he was pilloried.

Eliezer Yudkowsky writes:

That said, can we please have some loud, repeated yelling about land value taxes? Like every economist in the history of time has agreed this would be a good idea, and it's not in the Overton Window.

We already have property taxes, and Prop 13 made it clear that Californians don't like property taxes them. Plus, a new tax on property is essentially a seizure of property. If we were to eliminate the income tax and replace it with a land value tax, that would basically be a transfer of wealth from land owners to everyone else.

RCF writes:

John Becker writes:

There are really dumb laws out there that are utterly inexplicable. Check out what's in your state. of those "dumb laws" prohibits prison workers having sex with inmates. I guess what constitutes a "dumb law" is not something of universal agreement.

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