From Abortion to Transportation, Unnecessary Regulations Cripple Individual Liberty

Tell the government busybodies to back off.

A Bloomington, Ill., van service would not seem to have much to do with a Washington-area abortion clinic. But their similar problems share a common source.

Julie Crowe wanted to drive a van for hire. It didn’t seem like too much to ask. She figured the small business could serve a niche: Late at night some women might feel more comfortable calling a fellow female for a ride than a strange man. Bar owners in downtown Bloomington signed a petition supporting Crowe’s idea. But when she asked city officials for a permit, they said no.

Three years ago, Bloomington amended its rules governing vehicles for hire. Anyone who wanted to start a taxi or similar service, or expand an existing one, first had to get a “certificate of convenience” – basically, a permission slip from the government. The ordinance said such permission slips could be granted only if the city manager decided additional taxi service was “desirable” and “in the public interest.” Precisely what those words meant was left up to the discretion of the city manager.

Whenever someone applied for a certificate, other taxi companies got to chime in on the merits of the proposal. Not surprisingly, Bloomington’s vehicle-for-hire businesses thought this was a great idea: The amended ordinance all but gave them veto power over the competition.

So when Crowe approached the city, the existing operators claimed – surprise! – there simply wasn’t enough room in the town for even one small taxi company more.

Crowe sued. Last week, in a rare victory for economic liberty, Illinois Circuit Judge Rebecca Foley issued a summary judgment in Crowe’s favor. The city had denied Crowe’s due-process rights through a ludicrously arbitrary application and appeals process, the judge found.

Moreover, the Bloomington ordinance was not “rationally related to the public’s health, safety, or welfare and instead serves only to protect established business from competition. . . . The City’s stated purpose for the [certificate requirement] is to: 1) prevent saturation of the market in order to ‘ensure the economic survival’ of existing [vehicle-for-hire] operators; and 2) establish a public hearing process in which the ‘main issue is whether the market will support a new company.’"

Put another way, the purpose of the ordinance was to (1) stymie competition and (2) substitute the judgment of government bureaucrats for the judgment of consumers. 

Imagine if a similar rule had been in effect regarding, say, personal computing in the 1980s. Companies such as IBM and Commodore “saturated” the market then, and probably would have argued that upstarts such as Apple were simply not “desirable.”

This is troubling not just for the practical reason that it stifles innovation. It is troubling on an ethical plane as well. Ponder the almost exospheric level of arrogance required to sit in judgment of, and then overrule, the business and consumer choices of others.

But people also have non-economic reasons for wanting to prevent the launch of a new businesss, or to shut down an existing one. Take the saga of the NOVA Women’s Healthcare clinic in the city of Fairfax. Long a target of protesters because of the many abortions it performed, NOVA has been shut down by a combination of state and local regulation.

Earlier this year Virginia imposed stringent new building regulations on abortion clinics that require them to meet hospital-like standards for things such as hall widths. Pro-life activists, who pushed the measure, pretended in public that they were concerned about health and safety, but everyone knew their true aim was to make abortion unavailable.

The NOVA clinic sought out new space in another building. Permission denied: the parking was insufficient, said local panjandrums. For good measure, the Fairfax City Council amended its zoning ordinance to require a special-use permit for medical facilities. The measure covered abortion clinics but exempted doctor’s or dentist’s offices. (Subtle!)

Unable to withstand the sustained assault, the NOVA clinic has closed its doors. Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman told The Washington Post the shutdown is a huge victory in a larger campaign: “Our focus has always been on the local level. In the last 15 years, we’ve closed 71 percent of all the abortion clinics in the nation.”

Progressives find this outrageous. The other day the Post unloaded an editorial about the NOVA clinic condemning “Virginia Lawmakers’ False War on Abortion.” But in other areas the newspaper, like many progressives, has no objection at all to expressing moral disapprobation through government regulation.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • anon||

    The retard signal is blazing, and yet no replies on ABORSHUN?

    How the mighty have fallen.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Yes, Progressives always love government regulation… until one of their sacred cows is the ox being gored.

  • some guy||

    Both sides are consistently hypocritical when it comes to arbitrary regulations.

  • Almanian!||

    It's only hypocritical when THEY do it.

  • Raston Bot||

    Cows? Oxen? You better be zoned agricultural with all that talk or else the Health Department, EPA's Clean Water division, Food Inspection Service, et al will fine your ass.

    And in all seriousness, I disagree with your point. From the (lack of) pushback, Progs don't appear to give a shit if a cow or two are culled from their herd as long as it advances their overall agenda.

  • mtrueman||

    "Progressives always love government regulation…"

    Probably true, but libertarians also have a soft spot for government interference in the market as well. Look at DARPA. I've never seen anyone in these pages calling for its abolishment. The example in the article where Apple is locked out of markets due to government regulation is absurd. In fact Apple benefited from government research and development on such technologies as touch screen, and Apple received investment funds from government agencies.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Please explain how DARPA research significantly distorts the free market. Does it deny the private sector the opportunity to fund basic research at universities? I've yet to find a department that will say no to more money, so I think we can safely rule out any "crowding out" argument.

    Is it because it funds research into things that can make people go bang? Again, show me where this interferes with a functioning private sector economy.

    Crony capitalism? Maybe, but peanuts compared to the glorious People's Success of EV subsidies, solar and wind subsidies, ethanol subsidies, milk subsidies, raisin reserves, NASA, Head Start, etc., etc.

  • mtrueman||

    DARPA develops technologies that the free market deems better not developed. DARPA over-rides this reluctance. That's distortion for you. It also employs scientists who would otherwise put their expertise for sale on the free market. There's more distortion for you. Intelligent economic decision making needs a free market to function. Government bureaucrats distort this function.

  • Floridian||

    Conservatives learned from Progressives to regulate that which they can not ban. Now as libertarians we must learn to regulate the regulations thus causing a paradox that explodes into a free world.

    *takes long pull off bottle*

  • Metazoan||

    Actually, yes, let's have another government that can only regulate and prosecute the regular government. That sounds like fun.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    My secret plan for world peace and domination always involved figuring out some way to get the trial lawyers to sue themselves thus causing a tear in the fabric of space time as the density of the universe approaches infinity at the resulting singularity.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It's for your own good.

    STOP RESISTING.

  • CE||

    How do laws against murder cripple individual liberty?

    If you want a government that protects life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, ever notice that life comes first?

  • anon||

    BUT WHERE'S MY LIBERTY TO MURDER CE? HUH MR. SMARTYPANTS?

  • JParker||

    Is this in regard to abortion? If so, note that abortion, in itself, is orthogonal to feticide. Abortion ends a pregnancy; whether or not the fetus survives this is independent -- in fact, a Caesarean Section is a class of abortion (ending the pregnancy before it completes with vaginal birth), although it is (probably for political reasons) not referred to as such.

    Aborting a pregnancy -- with or without the mother paying for the services of others to do so -- is the right of the mother based on the lack of any underlying obligation to support (such obligations being created only as the result of contract or tort). Feticide is not a right here; however, additional cost to ensure the life of the fetus during and after the abortion cannot be justified.

    The solution for those who wish the fetus' life to continue, is for those individuals to offer to subsidize the abortions to the extent needed to provide a non-fatal abortion at the same cost level as the intended fatal (or potentially fatal) method of abortion the mother would otherwise choose.

    This would allow the "Pro Life" and "Pro Choice" goals to both be achieved, and should be the basis for future discussions of the topic.

  • SIV||

    "A parasitic clump of cells has no rights the woman is bound to respect"

  • Adamsmith1776||

    What if the "clump of cells" has a heart beat? Or Brain activity?

  • Almanian!||

    Then it would be demonstrably more sentient than the majority of "civil servants" and elected/appointed politicians.

  • Protagoronus||

    Right, the ability to pump blood or fire neurons are where rights originate.

    Mind saying what you actually think? I am guessing it has something to do with magic.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Individual DNA is not magic.
    Abortion is the killing of unique individuals.
    Are you pro-your life?

  • Protagoronus||

    Ah, individual DNA is where you draw the line? Do you fall into this camp? www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLV.....ata_player (Monty Python)

    I am a lot farther along than "individual DNA." I might even consider my memory of life experiences and ability to think to be relevant.

    Trying to pin down a start of life or rights is a difficult problem. Beware those who claim an absolute solution.

  • Harvard||

    [Trying to pin down a start of life or rights is a difficult problem.]

    The very default argument for erring on the side of not killing any fetus. You've inadvertently stumbled onto a sliver of wisdom here.

  • SQRLSY One||

    You rape 'em, we scrape 'em!
    No fetus can beat us!
    Discount for bringing your own coat hanger!
    When the cloning of humans is perfected, they will be able to clone all of those cells that I scrape off of my cheek linings every time I brush my teeth. Tooth-brushing will become mass murder. Come to think of it, EATING anything other than liquids will ALSO knock living (could-be-cloned cells = humans) cells off of my cheeks, too. Eating will be mass murder as well…
    Scienfoology (Scienfoologists) does not / do not want to get embroiled in the abortion wars. Scienfoology does, however, offer your young women who would rather not submit to the Government-Almighty-mandated pre-abortion “shaming wand” rituals, a “religious freedom” out… Just WHY should religious freedoms be reserved for the “virtuous” women who don’t need or want abortions? Abortion-seeking so-called “slutty” women deserve religious freedoms too… Therefore, Scienfoology offers religious rituals in which the abortion-seeker’s religious EFFIGY is subjected to the ritual raping via “shaming wand”, rather than the personal body of the abortion-seeker. To see the full details of the “religious exemption” escape clause from the raping/shaming wand, please see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/sonograms/ ...

  • Harvard||

    Brought to you by the Free Kermitt Gosnell Committee, an equal opportunity employer.

  • KRoyall||

    A child outside of the womb is still a parasite because it is dependent on its parents (or someone else) to remain alive. We are just lumps of cells too. Your argument is crap.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    For instance, the Post has denounced payday lenders as “parasites” that “prey on vulnerable Virginians” by “offering quickie loans at usurious interest rates.” Critics of payday loans misleadingly exaggerate those rates, but that’s a story for another time. The point is that the Post has called on Virginia legislators to reassess their decision to let payday lenders operate at all.


    These Virginians are like children. They couldn't possibly act in their own best interests! They'd eat food out of dumpsters if we didn't mandate dumpster-locks! (Caveat: Exaggeration. I don't know that Virginia actually has such a stupid law)

  • Duke||

    "Earlier this year Virginia imposed stringent new building regulations on abortion clinics chambers that require them to meet hospital-like standards for things such as hall widths."

    FTFY

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Oh the irony.
    Libertarians oppose the initiation of force. Except to avoid taking responsibility for certain actions, cause they'e the coolest, hippest generation ever, the first to enjoy sex without consequences. And science be damned, they are not giving that up.

  • Protagoronus||

    First answer this: Why does a zygote have rights? I would like to also hear about how you mourn the hundreds of millions (billions?) killed on a yearly basis (failed implantation, miscarriage, etc.) and what you are planning to do about it.

  • Harvard||

    Why does any human life have rights. Inalienable rights at that. This could quickly get over your head.

  • Protagoronus||

    Commenter above was relying on "science." You have not joined the conversation because you have not mentioned any scientific guideline.

    I assume you think humans have rights, if not, this conversation is not for you. Would you claim that we get our rights from magic [read: god(s)]? If that is your position, you might want to recognize that others do not share your beliefs. You cannot prove your beliefs. Therefore, you have no moral basis for controlling those who do not comply with your worldview. This is especially true if you acknowledge the evolutionary basis of morality.

    On the other hand, I can claim that rights come from the inate ability to assert control over the self and surroundings. Note that if that is true, you are infringing on rights if you try to control others with the same ability. This is more definitional than scientific, but you can probably show scientifically that the first sentence applies to humans at a certain age almost universally. I also consider it possible to argue that if one can assert rights, one can also confer them, but that is less universal. If we are to confer rights to that which cannot assert them, then we rely on social norms or laws to get the job done. We have left the realm of science.

  • Harvard||

    [I am a lot farther along than "individual DNA." I might even consider my memory of life experiences and ability to think to be relevant]

    [I assume you think humans have rights, if not, this conversation is not for you. ]

    [On the other hand, I can claim that rights...yadda, yadda]

    Point being, it doesn't matter what the fuck you think. You have the hubris of the pseudo intellectual. The fact is, we are regulated and governed by a constitution, whose authors believed whatever the fuck they believed, who authored that the right to life was sacrosanct as far as the government, or such a lot as yourself, is concerned.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Of course it matters what he thinks. And I'm not saying that because I think the Constitution is a living, breathing document to be toyed with by whomever presently has the largest gang. The fact is that the Constitution is silent on the definition of human life, so we have to answer the question ourselves. Personally, I think human life should be defined as the developmental stage at which the fetus is viable (with assistance) outside of the womb. That's somewhere around 24wks now. But even that's a slippery slope. What happens when we functioning artificial wombs? Does that push it back to conception? I would still say no, but I admit I don't have fully formed logic around that answer.

    So is it a fully fertilized egg because that has all 46 human chromosomes? Then what about Downs' Syndrome? Is it 46 or MORE?

    Do we try a pregnant woman who miscarries during a very bumpy transatlantic flight for murder/manslaughter? If she eats an atrocious prenatal diet lacking in folic acid and the child is born with defects is it child abuse? If she drinks heavily before realizing she's pregnant, quits as soon as she knows for sure, and the child is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, should she be tried and sent to jail for child abuse? None of these are easily answered and certainly not by the Constitution.

  • KRoyall||

    We are all former fetuses. If you remove a fetus from the womb and kill it, you are ending a life. It's a pretty straightforward concept.

    No child is viable outside of the womb without assistance so your logic there is flawed as well. The number of chromosomes is immaterial to the matter. The rest of your post is just pure crap.

  • Harvard||

    [None of these are easily answered and certainly not by the Constitution.]

    Then again, if you profess to hold life (personhood) a valuable commodity why on earth then would you not err on the side of "do no harm". To admit that at the end of the day you're ultimately stumped on exactly what "life" is, how could one possibly take any other position than to equate any fetus, Down's patient, comatose 90 year old, etc, etc, as human and confer every available "right" to them?

  • Protagoronus||

    How do you propose we find out when every egg is fertilized? Are miscarriages prosecuted as manslaughter in your utopia?

    Tell me how you get around these issues without completely violating the rights of women.

  • Harvard||

    What rights, infanticide? Is it easier for you to justify extinguishing a fetus because it was once merely a fertilized egg?

    Perhaps, as time goes by, we may attribute many things to an egg we cannot today, much as fetal heart surgery was unheard of a mere score of years ago. Until then we can surely agree on protecting that which will be born within a matter of months can we not?

  • Protagoronus||

    Perhaps as time goes by you will actually be able to follow logic and provide a response that acknowledges the points being made by others.

    Until then, and after then, I will agree that women have sovereignty over their bodies and what goes on inside them.

  • Harvard||

    Damn, if only your mother.......

  • seguin||

    Are we talking about just the point in development where the potential person is a zygote? Because that's a very small, discrete amount of time. Same with blastocysts. Considering abortion is legal (at least in Texas) up to twenty weeks, the level of fetal development is well past the zygote stage by that time. If you want to have a scientific discussion, we need to know just what the temporal boundaries are.

  • bassjoe||

    I agree with your article except for this bit: "Critics of payday loans misleadingly exaggerate those rates, but that’s a story for another time."

    No, critics get payday loans get it exactly right. Just because the interest rates aren't THAT usurious (they're still pretty usurious) most payday lenders add "renewal fees" that most payday loan borrowers pay every two weeks that make the effective interest rate for payday loans skyrocket into the 500% range.

    How do I know this? I practice bankruptcy law; I had a client in desperate straits who went to payday loan agencies two months before she saw me and took out $1000 in loans. Literally 60 days later, she owed $2500, mostly because of "fees", NOT interest rates. Forgetting for a moment the borrower's "personal responsibility", blah blah blah, the fact of the matter is that payday agencies ARE EXTREMELY USURIOUS, not to mention predatory and duplicitous, and that you're actually attempting to DEFEND their practices is quite frankly astounding.

  • JParker||

    However usurious the lender is is irrelevant, as long as the terms are clearly spelled out in advance. Borrowers will seek out the best deal they can find; only if they cannot find any better deal do they go the "Payday Loan" route. The fact is that for many people, no other alternative exists, and the potential borrow still finds the high level of usury preferable to not borrowing at all.

    The law takes this option away, reducing the options of these "edge" borrowers, and by reducing their options damage them. How anyone would could "DEFEND" this limitation by force is what is truly astounding.

  • Federale||

    LOL, libertarianism is killing other people? Strange interpretation of liberty. Typical of a pothead.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement