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Removing restrictions on economic liberty


Timothy Sandefur is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the lead attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation's Economic Liberty Project, which defends businesses against onerous regulations. His new book, The Right to Earn a Living (Cato), catalogs the ways government restrains even the most basic economic activities. reason asked him to list three especially pervasive interventions that make it harder for Americans to do business:

1 Professional licensing requirements. Licensing is often touted as necessary to protect the public, but established companies frequently exploit it to bar potential competitors. These expensive, time-consuming mandates, which do little to protect consumers from incompetent or crooked businesses, apply to professions as diverse as florists, barbers, and pest control workers.

2 Certificate of Necessity laws. These laws force entrepreneurs to prove to bureaucrats that a new business is "necessary" before they can open its doors. But the only way to prove there's a market for a business is to try it. If Starbucks had been required 20 years ago to prove America needed a new coffee franchise, it couldn't have.

3 Minimum price requirements. Often appearing in the form of antitrust laws, these rules frequently punish businesses that cut prices with the intent to compete. Such laws keep prices unnecessarily high and encourage existing businesses to waste money suing one another instead of improving their products and services.