Wednesday 8 June 2011

Altruism and government

On the three days a week I'm an anarchist, I'm sometimes asked what would become of the poor or those in severe hardship if the state weren't there to protect them.

Without the State, the homeless could be fed:
Members of Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested Wednesday when police said they violated a city ordinance by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park.

Jessica Cross, 24, Benjamin Markeson, 49, and Jonathan "Keith" McHenry, 54, were arrested at 6:10 p.m. on a charge of violating the ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks. McHenry is a co-founder of the international Food Not Bombs movement, which began in the early 1980s.

The group lost a court battle in April, clearing the way for the city to enforce the ordinance. It requires groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.

Arrest papers state that Cross, Markeson and McHenry helped feed 40 people Wednesday night. The ordinance applies to feedings of more than 25 people.
And tornado victims could be helped:
Mike Haege owns a tree-trimming business in Hastings, Minnesota. After a tornado hit northern Minneapolis, he decided to help out. On May 23, the day after the tornado, he signed up as a volunteer and brought some equipment to help people without insurance to dig out from the damage. Mike and his fellow volunteers removed fallen or damaged trees from driveways and doorways, all free of charge. He probably made a lot of friends that day.

Regulators were not among them. While he is licensed to work in many Minneapolis-area cities, he isn’t licensed in Minneapolis proper. So they kicked him out of the city.
HT: @MitchellHall on the first, @TPCarney on the second.


  1. What, if any, are the circumstances under which licensing is either efficient, or a good idea for some other reason?

  2. Not a formal proof or anything, but I'd expect licensing to potentially be defensible where:
    1) Asymmetric information between consumers and suppliers is high
    2) Potential for repeated dealings is low, or quality cannot be ascertained on repeated dealings
    3) Potential for reputational intermediaries is low (membership in professional organization, rating by Consumer Reports or the like)
    4) Error costs to consumers is high.

    Not sure many cases would fit the bill. Even doctors could be certified via professional organization membership or rated via something like Consumer Reports.

  3. Further evidence that the US is a basket case. It really is depressing when you see things like this in the media. It all comes back to the police state and their love of suiting up to exercise their authoratah be damned with the actual right or wrong of the situation.

  4. Right - but isn't membership in a professional organisation licensing by another name?

  5. @Cam licensing turns the professional organization into a cartel.