Bryan, in his earlier post today, refers to an excellent quote from Walter Block that I hadn’t been aware of. I have some striking evidence for it that suggests that Walter actually understated the case. Here’s the story.

In about 1988, a German labor economist visited my school, the Naval Postgraduate School. My late colleague, Loren Solnick, and I had lunch with him. He wanted to know about regulation of the labor market in the United States. I was about to tell him that U.S. labor markets were substantially freer than those in Germany, but I deferred to my colleague, Loren, because he was a full-time labor economist and I thought I would play cleanup.

Then Loren shocked me. He said that labor markets in the United States are highly regulated, probably substantially less free than those in Germany. But he was doing a comparison based on one country. The German economist raised his eyebrows and started listing interventions in Germany, asking if we had those here. Loren sheepishly admitted that we didn’t.

What had happened? Before Loren had come to the Navy school in about 1986, he had worked full-time as an expert economist, typically defending employers from discrimination suits. He had seen some of the worst of the interventions in U.S. labor markets, and it was hard for him to see that it could be worse. It was and still is.