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What’s So Bad About Occupational Licensing?

Why does accepting payment for a service make an otherwise-benign activity suddenly illegal? Accepting money is what distinguishes cutting a friend’s hair for free from a criminal mastermind who takes money for illegally performing cosmetology or barbering without a license. Have you ever paid for a bad haircut? Did the cosmetology license prevent it? Have you ever had a bad meal in a restaurant (which is, by law, highly regulated)? Have you ever had an outstanding home cooked meal prepared by someone without a license? So how much do licensing and regulation do to ensure high standards? 
Occupational licensing is something of a pet peeve for us here at the 1889 Institute. We devote a whole section of our website to it. Why do we care so much? 
The Institute for Justice estimates that occupational licensing costs consumes an average of $203 billion per year nationally.  Licensing undeniably hurts the economy through deadweight loss - when the labor market is distorted leading to ineffic…

Thankful for Real Community: A Thanksgiving Lesson

What follows is a true story – actually, two true stories, or the same story that occurred in two different places in very different times and circumstances. Read on to find out where.
They had been discussing amongst themselves in pairs and small groups for months, concerned with their poverty and lack of progress in improving crop yields, so important to feeding themselves and building a thriving community. What they’d been doing, it seemed, should have succeeded. They all worked the same fields together – clearing, tilling, sowing, weeding, and reaping – everyone in the same fields at the same time. Anyone who might be weak in one skill should have had that weakness made up by others working beside them, with everyone benefitting from everyone else’s unique abilities.
They all had a common purpose. But for the occasional troublemaker, present in every community, they liked each other, helped each other, and took care of each other when some among them fell ill. And, everybody got a…

Gratitude for Restrained Government, and Restraints on Government

We at the 1889 Institute spend a lot of time critiquing government. I mean a lot. It’s what we do: we want to make government the best it can be, and that starts with identifying its flaws. But it is important, from time to time, to acknowledge that on the whole, Americans have it pretty good when it comes to governance. Here’s what I’m thankful for in government this year:
National defense. We live in perhaps the freest society that has ever existed. That would assuredly not be so if it were not for our strong commitment to deterring every foreign threat to our national sovereignty. What use is restrained government if a country is not safe from foreign invaders?
Courts. Courts not only determine who is guilty of a crime and who is not, they also provide a forum to resolve sometimes vicious disputes without violence. If free trade is the bridge to human flourishing, then a legal system that upholds property rights, enforces contracts, and deters crime forms the truss of that bridge.
Pol…

Oklahoma Is OK, but Seriously, That’s Not OK

The Americans at the table, negotiating a business deal, ask one of their number, “You can speak Dutch?” He replies, “I’m OK.” With his fellow Americans looking doubtful, he proceeds to mistranslate what they want him to say to their Dutch counterparts. The “OK” translator tells the Dutch that the Americans really need a hug, when he was supposed to tell them they really need the deal. With that, the AT&T commercial ends as one of the Dutch negotiators gives an American a hug with the announcer saying, “When just OK is not OK.”
There are several of these commercials, each with a different scenario, in which, indeed, just OK is not OK. And every time I see one of these commercials I think of the license plates that were once so common – “Oklahoma is OK.”
As someone who works to develop policy suggestions intended to make Oklahoma better, and hopefully, the best that Oklahoma can be, it often seems that slogan – Oklahoma is OK – gets in the way.
The fact is, in most respects Oklah…

What Do You Mean the Oklahoma Supreme Court Doesn’t Publish a Docket?

One of the most routine things any court does is to publish its “docket.” This public calendar announces the cases the court will hear and when they will be heard. The docket doesn’t just keep the court on schedule and notify the parties in litigation when to show up for court, it puts the public on notice as to what is going on in the legal system. This allows for a very basic level of public monitoring of what is (mostly) supposed to be a public process, and at the appellate level allows anyone who may have a personal or business interest in the interpretations of law the court is considering to follow, or sometimes influence the process.
Court dockets are routinely published all across the United States and at every level, from the lowest traffic court to the United States Supreme Court. But, incredibly, not at the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
No, really.
Earlier this year I called the office of the Clerk of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and asked for a copy of the Court’s docket. The voi…