A bit freer today than yesterday
By Scott Sumner
This caught my eye:
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a 66-year-old program that lets the government take raisins away from farmers to help reduce supply and boost market prices is unconstitutional.
In an 8-1 ruling, the justices said forcing raisin growers to give up part of their annual crop without full payment is an illegal confiscation of private property.
The ruling is a victory for California farmers Marvin and Laura Horne, who claimed they were losing money under a 1940s-era program they call outdated and ineffective. They were fined $695,000 for trying to get around the program.
A federal appeals court said the program was acceptable because the farmers benefited from higher market prices and didn’t lose the entire value of their crop.
The part I liked best was the 8-1 vote. Any constitutional rights that are defended on 5-4 votes, along ideological lines, are quite fragile. They could easily be lost with a slight shift in the Court’s make-up. An 8-1 vote suggests broad support for the right.
Brink Lindsey has a new Cato paper called “Low-Hanging Fruit Guarded by Dragons: Reforming Regressive Regulation to Boost U.S. Economic Growth”, which identifies areas where we might be able to make progress on deregulation:
Despite today’s polarized political atmosphere, it is possible to construct an ambitious and highly promising agenda of pro-growth policy reform that can command support across the ideological spectrum. Such an agenda would focus on policies whose primary effect is to inflate the incomes and wealth of the rich, the powerful, and the well-established by shielding them from market competition. A convenient label for these policies is “regressive regulation”–regulatory barriers to entry and competition that work to redistribute income and wealth up the socioeconomic scale. This paper identifies four major examples of regressive regulation: excessive monopoly privileges granted under copyright and patent law; restrictions on high-skilled immigration; protection of incumbent service providers under occupational licensing; and artificial scarcity created by land-use regulation.
As Tyler would say, “self-recommending.”
Update: Commenter Yaakov added the following note:
Regretfully, however, this seems not to be an 8:1 ruling, but rather a 5:4 ruling on the usual political lines. The three liberal justices that concurred in part, concurred with the more obvious parts of the decision. They dissented, however, on the issue of whether the government can confiscate the grapes and give as compensation higher prices. If that would be allowed, government could confiscate just about anything and give some crazy explanation why you are better off not having the confiscated property. For example, they could probably confiscate your swimming pool and tell you that you are better off without it now having a lower risk of drowning or having skin cancer.
That’s very unfortunate.