Monday, May 21, 2012

Bootleggers abandon Baptists

I've seen some pretty bad examples of jobs created for the sake of jobs, but this issue in North Carolina takes the cake. Politicians blocked a bill that would end inspections of new cars.

Usually the supporters mask their position with claims that creating these artificial jobs will benefit the larger society. They're not even trying here.

Sen. Jerry W. Tillman, a Randolph County Republican, protested that the measure would hurt garages, tire dealers and inspection stations – whose trade associations had lobbyists in attendance at the crowded meeting room.
 “I know a lot of people who do this, and they sell some gas on the side, but most of their profit comes from these inspections,” Tillman said. “We have 7,500 small businesses that do these inspections.”
Car owners statewide pay $13.60 for the annual safety inspection. The emissions inspection, required in 48 mostly urban counties, costs an additional $16.40. Studies have shown newer cars have fewer safety or emissions problems. State motor vehicle and air quality agencies have supported the proposal to end inspections for cars from the three most recent model years.
Mike Munger has some choice words.
So, the original bill would have saved taxpayers $30 million. Our legislature has decided that $20 million of that should be set aside as a subsidy to people who provide pointless inspections, apparently at an enormous profit. But we could eliminate the charade of the inspection, and just force car owners to fork over the cash directly, and save those car owners more than $10 million.  
Why don't we do this? Everyone is better off. Station owners get their cash, the mercantilist legislature can hoard their "jobs," and car owners save a lot of valuable time.  
 The answer is that the charade is the point. It's important. If we admit that most government "services" are actually just the new mercantilism of protecting zero-productivity jobs, then we would have to think about getting rid of the jobs. And then where would legislators get their campaign money? They'd have to talk to actual voters, instead of lobbyists. Ick. 
"Ick" is right. In July 2010 I wrote:

As I've said before, destroying jobs is progress. Imagine if instead of making legislation easier to read, we decided to make it harder, and Latin replaced English as the language of American law. Now all laws are written entirely in Latin. Law firms would be forced to hire Latin scholars to translate for the legal team. There would be some law and Latin experts, but you would expect a lot of two-man teams to do the job of one paralegal. This sounds really nice to window breakers, but the rest of us can see the price of legal services would jump and society would be made worse off.
How is making needless inspections anyone better off? The supporters don't even pretend it benefits anyone except the inspectors. It's a bad sign when the bootleggers can run free instead of hiding behind the Baptists.

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