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Reblogged:Government, 'Small' vs. 'Proper'

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Every once in a while, I'll see an article that sings the praises of the policies of one state or another as setting an example for the rest of the nation to follow. Usually, it's some new welfare-state program or anticapitalist, anti-energy "green" initiative the leftist press would love to ram down everyone else's throats.

But this time, we have a whole list from a more or less conservative outlet, Newsweek, which ticks off "The Top 10 Florida Policies Other States Should Emulate." And no, despite how horrible the conservative movement has become, this list includes some ways in which Florida is freer than the rest of the country and doesn't include anything overtly theocratic.

It may be true that many states would be relatively more prosperous than they are now if they took this advice, but it is worth considering how they compare to what we would have in a laissez-faire system, where the government is restricted to its proper scope, of protecting individual rights.

Here, we'll just list the ten points presented by Newsweek in italics, followed by my brief comments, and my overall evaluation in bold.

Regarding these evaluations, I hope to make clear from the context that "good" isn't necessarily full-throated praise, so much as a sense that in today's context, something might be comparatively good or improving about as much as one could hope for given that capitalism is nowhere near the Overton Window. In some cases, my evaluation will differ from whether something actually makes life easier in Florida as compared to other states, such as for uniformity in occupational licensing:
Image by Ashley Satanosky, via Unsplash, license.
  1. [T]he state has some of the first school choice laws in the nation, ... [and] ... a universal "education savings accounts" bill [is] under consideration in the state legislature... -- The state has no business running education or any other business. There would be no need for such laws in a capitalist society, but this is a step in the right direction. This isn't exactly capitalism, but it is good in today's context.
  2. Florida's higher education system is affordable and accessible, from career training through graduate studies. Public college tuition is capped and the lowest in the country. -- Education is not part of the role of a proper government, and I wonder at whose expense tuition is "capped." Furthermore, if there were competition and the possibility of failure, there would be no need for "right to know laws" for paying customers (i.e., students) to have an easy way to judge the value they would be getting from an education. This is par for the course in today's semisfacist mixed economy, and I see no movement in either direction here towards more or less freedom. Neutral.
  3. We're one of just a handful of states that lets teenagers get jobs without first needing permission from their school or the state government. -- I had no idea other states were so restrictive. Good.
  4. Instead of letting different cities create different and confusing licensing requirements and fees for jobs, our state ensures the rules are the same for everyone. -- All licensing laws are improper barriers to entry to the labor market and should be abolished. Professional associations, independent standards bodies, businesses, and the market should be in charge of determining who is qualified to perform a job. That said, while not having a regulatory patchwork to deal with is easier for people to deal with day-to-day, that masks the harm done by having the state regulate everything. This is bad in a "he makes the trains run on time" sort of way.
  5. No income tax. -- Good.
  6. Low property taxes. -- There shouldn't be any taxes. This is par for the course today, and since the state doesn't appear to be looking for new excuses to spend our money I'll be generous, call this neutral, and be glad my taxes aren't any higher.
  7. Florida recently enacted a law that dramatically speeds up the local approval process for new home construction. -- As with licensing law, the state shouldn't be telling people what to do with their own property, and the "efficiency" here masks impropriety. That said, I'm calling this good in the greater context of so many other states actively discouraging development in so many ways.
  8. Florida makes it easy to work from home. -- Regulations that shouldn't be on the books for starting a business have been streamlined. Whoopee. Bad, for the same reason as for streamlined licensing laws.
  9. It's one of the few states that requires the legislature to approve the most expensive regulations. -- It will be a long time before the cause of separating the state from the economy gains any steam. In the meantime, at least it's hard to slam everyone with particularly onerous measures. Good.
  10. Florida keeps government small... -- Small, but often very improper. This governor in particular has demonstrated the difference between small and proper government on more than one occasion: forbidding cruise lines to test passengers for Covid and forbidding Twitter to ban politicians' accounts come to mind. Absent the governor's authoritarian tendencies, I'd be much happier with Florida's relatively free economy. But it's causing too many people to give the governor a pass on some very questionable policies. Neutral: States should strive for governments of whatever size is necessary to protect individual rights. Any other use of government is wrong.
This was an interesting exercise, and one that shows just how bad the state of freedom is in America, which lags badly behind even Florida in most other states.

-- CAV

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