Posted tagged ‘regulation’

Increasing Poverty and Homelessness: Who Benefits?

27 March 2014

Giving politicians the power to manage the economy causes all kins of problems. For one thing, they act in their own interest – just like anyone else. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it seems to be. It’s time to get past the idea that politicians (or bureaucrats) are wise and altruistic overseers of the economy, taking necessary actions to correct imperfections and imbalances caused by, well, regular people.
A good example is the proposed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to raise the state minimum wage by nearly forty percent. The purpose of this law is to make it illegal for a high-school dropout — let’s call him John — to agree to accept a $10 hourly wage from a shop owner.
The evidence clearly shows the likely result of this action. If the shop owner has a job, she will hire the best-qualified person she can. A person with a good work history, or a high school diploma or GED, will seem like a better bet than John. John, representing the lowest level of skills and education in our society, will be the loser from this legislation. He will become unemployed, and likely remain unemployed for the long term. An increase in the minimum wage almost always increases unemployment for that reason. Specifically, it increases the already abysmal employment prospects for those starting out in the job market (the 17 – 25 cohort), and even more so for the black and Hispanics in that group. An increases in the minimum wage ends up being a knife in the back of the least advantaged, the worst-off among us. When Montgomery County sought to raise the minimum wage, this was the advice they got from expert labor economists at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University. The deleterious effects, the economists testified, are more likely when the increase is large and when the unemployment rate is already high. Economist Stephen Fuller looked at the Maryland bill and concluded it would probably cause a reduced standard of living and higher costs.

But political management of the economy doesn’t pay any attention to those people at the bottom. When the high school grad with the increased wage gets his paycheck, he’ll thank the politicians who caused it. The politicians have no incentive, however, to be concerned about the people at the very bottom of the economy – the ones we should be most concerned about. John’s lost job or lost employment opportunity doesn’t have any political loss for them. They are seeking political support, and they get rewards for increasing the minimum wage — and also for increasing unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.

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Public Service Commission Doesn’t Help the Public

15 April 2013

Nearly a year after the dreadful power outages of the 2012 derecho,  the Public Service Commission has finally taken decisive action, to show how well government can regulate utilities to protect consumer interests.  They’ve decided … to do nothing.

They did, however, note “a significant and unsatisfactory disconnect between the public’s expectations of the distribution system reliability… and the ability of the present-day electric distribution systems to meet those expectations.”

There are two basic ways to ensure that service providers are aware of the needs of their customers, and remain responsive to those needs.  One way is to promulgate and enforce government regulations on the service providers.  The other is to have market pressures and competition as the hammer to induce businesses to meet customer needs efficiently and effectively.

Once again, then, we see the impotence of government regulation when it comes to protecting consumer interests  Contrast it with the consumer sovereignty in a market system.  When products or services don’t meet their expectations, consumers don’t meet for a year to decide to do nothing.  They don’t need to become experts in the ins and outs of distribution systems and economic regulation.  Instead, they simply move their business elsewhere.  The state of Maryland should be focused on revamping the regulatory system to resemble a real market with choice, to enable electricity customers to do just that.

Good News on the Law Enforcement Front

31 October 2012

The commander of the Drug Enforcement Section of the Montgomery County Police was quoted as saying that they are going to step down enforcement of marijuana laws on low-level users.

Better that they should cut out enforcement altogether, against buyers and sellers, but this at least represents a better value for the county’s taxpayers.