[Uber's] exponential growth confirms what every New Yorker and cab riders in many other cities have long suspected: Taxi service is woefully inefficient. It also raises a question of broader relevance: Why stop here?This is an all too often overlooked effect of so much government-induced cartelization. The costs of higher prices are paid by middle and lower income people. And many job opportunities are denied to lower income people.
Just as limited taxi medallions [and ban on surge pricing, and the mandated shift change -JC] can lead to a chronic undersupply of cabs at 4 p.m., the state licensing regulations for many occupations are creating bottlenecks across the economy, raising the prices of many goods and services and putting good jobs out of reach of too many Americans.
... like taxi medallions, state licenses required to practice all sorts of jobs often serve merely to cordon off occupations for the benefit of licensed workers and their lobbying groups, protecting them from legitimate competition.
...“Lower-income people suffer from licensing,” Professor Krueger told me. “It raises the costs of many services and prevents low-income people from getting into some professions.
Why does this happen? The public choice school points out that the government can charge, in the form of political support as well as money, the beneficiaries of its induced cartels, and that impoverishment of the unlucky breeds support for government programs for the unfortunate, whose votes it also buys. When did you see an anti-inequality protest with signs saying "repeal occupational licensing laws?"
In a study commissioned by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, Morris Kleiner of the University of Minnesota found that almost three out of 10 workers in the United States need a license from state governments to do their jobs, up from one in 20 in the 1950s. By cordoning off so many occupations, he estimates, professional licensing by state governments ultimately reduces employment by up to 2.8 million jobs. The trend worries the Obama administration. The president’s budget, to be unveiled on Monday, will include $15 million for states to analyze the costs and benefits of their licensing rules, identify best practices and explore making licenses portable across state lines.The rest of the budget may be DOA, but perhaps Congress will see the value in this proposal. Of course, it's not obvious new studies are needed. We have over a half century of such studies, from Milton Friedman's 1946 Ph.D Dissertation, the "Occupational licensure" chapter in his1962 Capitalism and Freedom, to, more recently (random examples via google search) a 200 page review from the Institute for Justice (Cato coverage here) and many more. Edit copy, edit paste, could save about $14.99 million bucks. Still, cheap at the price.
Portability is an interesting issue too. In the past, Americans moved a lot more. It's a lot harder to do now, especially for lower-income Americans blocked by licensing from moving to a hot state.
Only a handful of occupations are licensed in every state, according to a report by the Institute of Justice, a free-market advocacy group opposed to many occupational licenses.Notice that the Institute of Justice is "a free-market advocacy group opposed to many occupational licenses," implicitly questioning the validity of their statements, while the Brookings Institution is just the "Brookings Institution," not a ... well, you fill in the quote. Ah well, it's still the New York Times, don't get your hopes up too far for unbiased reporting.
... Among the tangle of regulations, it is not hard to find rules that defy common sense. An athletic trainer must put in 1,460 days of training to get a license in Michigan. An emergency medical technician needs only 26.As we know, occupational licensing is even worse in Europe. Here we come. In slides for his paper with Lee Ohanian on European Stagnation, Jesús Fernández-Villaverde tells the Zidane story
Soccer being a lot more important than taxis, it ended well for Zidane. Not so, however for Uber, now banned in Spain.
- Zinedine Zidane is one of the top 5 soccer players of all time. He won pretty much everything (World Cup 1998, Euro Cup 2000,....)
- After retiring, in 2013-2014, he was assistant coach for Real Madrid. Extremely successful year for Real Madrid.
- In August 2014, he becomes main coach for Real Madrid B Team
- ... he is sued by the director of the Spanish National Football Coach Education Centre because he does not have a three year higher education degree in Soccer coaching.
- Fined and expelled from Spanish league.
Back to the Times
Workers in licensed occupations can make up to 15 percent more than unlicensed workers with similar skills, according to research by Professors Kleiner and Krueger.The WSJ offers a similar story by Tom Gordon about do it yourself legal clinics, no surprise under attack by lawyers on similar "protection" grounds. But of course we expect that from WSJ, a ... how did that Institute for Justice quote go?
But the claim that they protect consumers often rings hollow.
A study of regulations for mortgage brokers, for instance, found that states with licensed brokers did not enjoy fewer foreclosures but did suffer more expensive mortgages.
... While the tougher restrictions add to the cost of care, they do not have any discernible effect on its quality: Well-child medical exams cost 3 to 16 percent more in states where nurses cannot issue prescriptions, according to one study, but their infant mortality rates are no better. Malpractice premiums, a measure of safety, are about the same.
“Professional organizations that push for licenses can’t say, ‘We want to erect a fence around our occupation,’ so they say it is to protect public health and safety,” said Dick M. Carpenter II, research director at the Institute for Justice. “It is an assertion with zero evidence.”
Not mentioned. Uber teaches us that star ratings are far more effective than taxi commissions to induce quality. I ride Uber not because of the price. But because every single driver so far is courteous, safe, and the car clean.
A Health Care Thought
The Uber analogy prompts a health care analogy. The conversation around health insurance problems routinely asserts the big problem with health care market is that people don't pay out of pocket.
But people pay for taxis predominantly out of pocket. And before Uber, we got awful service.
Health care with big copays under the ACA and ACO may look a lot like hailing a cab on New Year's eve. In the rain. Supply competition is the key to reaping the benefits of markets.