Will Federal Courts Defend Freedom to Farm, Build, Weave, Heal, and Drive?
But these problems are also opportunities for entrepreneurs producing goods and services, from farmers growing and harvesting food, to textile workers weaving fabric and sewing clothes, to developers, builders, remodelers in the shelter or housing business.
On the one-year anniversary of the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, it’s worth looking at a “federal court system reform” version of Black Lives Matter. An alternative slogan might be Black Liberty Matters (along with economic liberty for everyone else). What matters for people living in Ferguson? Well, the list can start with food, shelter, clothing, health care, education, and security. This should be the same list for enterprise and employment opportunities for the people of Ferguson. Often arbitrary regulations stand in the way, each protecting established companies and government employees.
So can the unemployed in Ferguson find or create jobs in any of these fields? Can they launch or join private security enterprises (to replace their expensive and dysfunctional police)? Restaurants and food-carts? Homebuilding and remodeling? Home enterprises making clothing, providing hair braiding or health care services? Local charter and classical schools or tutorial services?
Each of these enterprises is gated by regulations, requiring time-consuming and complicated permits, licenses, or waivers on various zoning and business rules.
In modern society each family depends on electricity and clean water delivered to their home through the day, and families rely upon cars, bicycles, buses, or perhaps Uber for each day’s travel to produce or purchase goods and services.
Networks of enterprises innovate and manufacture the myriad home appliances, furniture, books and bookcases, and endless other goods and services purchased each day. The flip side of our lives as consumers is our role as producers joining the enterprise networks making goods other people need and want.
In an open economy, all this producing of and consuming of stuff is coordinated by markets generating prices, and prices creating incentives and information available to guide producers and consumers.
If all that sounds abstract, students can make it concrete by looking at a single day in the life of their own family. The dance of consuming and producing begins each morning waking from beds, sheets, and blankets made by unknown people usually in unknown lands. And through the day, in developed countries like the United States, lives and appetites are satisfied to an amazing degree by people we don’t know and will never meet. In exchange father, mother, and others in the family are responsible for various tasks, including producing and goods and services that improve the lives of people around the planet, most of whom, again, you don’t know and won’t ever meet.
I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.*
RP.2Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that’s all I do.
RP.3You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery—more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, the wise G. K. Chesterton observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
RP.4I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me—no, that’s too much to ask of anyone—if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because—well, because I am seemingly so simple.
RP.5Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the U.S.A. each year.
RP.6Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye—there’s some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.
The knowhow for all this production expertise, from peanuts to pencils to iPhones, is distributed across hundreds, thousands, or millions, scattered across the planet.
Among the many, many challenges producers of goods and services face barriers both natural and political separating them from consumers. The sock factory in China is thousands of miles away from millions of consumer feet in the U.S.
The wages earned by people working in sock factories in China follow from the value their dexterity adds to the sock making machines operating in factories. The textile and sock shaping machinery is sophisticated and expensive, and other expenses include electricity, the raw cotton and polyester, and rent for the land. After the socks are produced, they have little value at the factory so must be transported by truck or train to warehoused and retail stores in China, or to ports, and by ship to other countries, and again by truck or train to retail stores.
Producers and consumers of goods and service in Ferguson, Missouri benefit from low cost goods and services from China, and also face a range of regulations that make life and enterprise more difficult. In China the central government has mandated minimum wages that are up significantly in recent years. These wage mandates have made Chinese the manufacture of socks less competitive, and dozens of firms have moved to other countries, along with tens of thousands of jobs.
In Ferguson, minimum wage laws and complex employment regulations make life difficult for small companies, from manufacturing to food services. Burger King, McDonald’s and other chain stores have whole departments at headquarters helping them navigate state and federal food and employment regulations. Local franchise owners also have staff to deal with state and local food and employment regulations.
Entrepreneurs running local food-carts or small start-up restaurants don’t have the funding or bandwidth to manage all that and run their food services companies.
The Internet can help, with sites like FoodTruckLaws.com that compile state and local regulations in one place.
Searching the Institute for Justice website brings 73 posts for “food trucks” including:
NYPD ARRESTED 3 WOMEN FOR SELLING CHURROS, April 26, 2015:
In late March, the NYPD arrested three women at the Union Square subway station for peddling churros without a license. Each woman was arrested, ticketed and is due in court on May 14. These vendors can face fines ranging from $50 to $1,000. …
This isn’t the first time police have cracked down on churros. Ana Alvarado, a single mother of two, has been arrested seven times for selling her churros between 2013 and 2014. She’s been held overnight in a precinct holding cell. After police confiscated her churros,
Alvarado even claims that they ate her churros right in front of her.During a three-month period in 2014, the NYPD arrested 89 churro sellers and other underground vendors. That was an 80 percent increase from the year before.
We could move through the dozens or hundred of small enterprises that everyday people without much money could start to provide basic goods and services to others in their communities, from food, to clothing, housing, health care, education, and security. In the name of protecting public health or safety, hundreds of professions and occupations are beyond reach of most low-income people.
The Institute for Justice and other organizations litigate against state and local economic regulations. For NCFCA debaters interested in this effort, IJ’s Judicial Engagement project looks to draw the federal courts into resuming their pre-New Deal role in protecting economic liberties long thought to have Constitutional safeguards. See previous posts discussing Liberty of Contract.
For ongoing economic liberty cases, see the Institute for Justice list, with its introduction that provides link to federal court topic:
Arbitrary licensing and permitting laws foreclose many occupations that are ideally suited to people of modest means. The Institute for Justice challenges these laws to secure constitutional protection for the right to earn a living and to demonstrate the importance of entrepreneurship to inner-city revitalization.
The precedent we set in our work and the victories we achieve will pave the way for thousands of hard-working men and women to enter the work force and provide for themselves and their families through honest enterprise. Check out more information on our economic liberty litigation.