Virginia

5 Easy Ways to Make Virginia Better

Certain reforms can increase the store of liberty and equality at the same time-which means both gubernatorial candidates should find them worthy of support.

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Principled political disagreements in the U.S. tend to revolve around two noble ideals: liberty and equality. Should a Christian baker be free to decline requests for gay-wedding cakes, or must he treat every customer the same? Should some Americans be forced to buy insurance to guarantee medical coverage for everyone?

Virginia's race for governor entails similar contrasts, although less intensely. Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie both inhabit the political center, and they agree on a great deal.

But their differences generally break along the same lines. Gillespie wants to cut taxes, for instance; Northam calls Gillespie's proposal a "giveaway to the rich."

Yet the game doesn't always have to be zero-sum. Certain reforms can increase the store of liberty and equality at the same time—which means both candidates should find them worthy of support. Here are just a few.

(1) Lower barriers to professional occupations. In a January paper on "Eight Market-Oriented Proposals That Reduce Income Inequality," Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out that doctors in the United States tend to make far more than their counterparts elsewhere. On the low end, family practitioners in America average $189,000 a year in earnings; cardiologists average more than half a million. Medical care therefore tends to involve wealth transfers from the less-well-off to the more-well-off.

One quick and easy way to counter that dynamic: Increase the supply of providers. For instance, at present foreign doctors who come to the U.S. cannot just start practicing; they first must complete a residency program, which creates a bottleneck in the supply chain—and drives up prices.

Another way to increase the supply of medical care: Let advanced-practice nurses deliver more without a doctor's supervision. Study after study of this issue has been done, and the overwhelming consensus is that expanding the scope of practice for nurses would lower the cost of health care without reducing patient welfare.

Giving nurses and patients more freedom would leave more money in patients' pockets, put more money in nurses', and less money in doctors'. More freedom. Less inequality.

(Northam, by the way, is a doctor. What does he think of the idea?)

(2) Lower occupational licensing generally. Everyone from the Heritage Foundation to the Obama administration has come to recognize the absurd burden that excessive licensing rules impose on people trying to make a living.

In Virginia, roughly 20 percent of workers need to get a government permission slip before they can practice even such trades as massage therapy and upholstery. Virginia is among the most burdensome states, requiring a license for nearly half of 102 low-income occupations. Those unnecessary rules help keep poor people poor.

The restrictions often have more to do with protecting market incumbents from competition than with protecting the public from harm. Massage therapists need 117 days of instruction under the commonwealth's rules; EMTs need only 28.

As the Obama administration noted, such barriers "artificially create higher costs for consumers and prohibit skilled American workers like florists or hairdressers from entering jobs in which they could otherwise excel. … In addition, the patchwork of state-by-state licensing rules leads to dramatically different requirements for the same occupations depending on the state in which one lives, burdening workers who aim to move across state lines—including, for example, military spouses who move frequently."

(3) Eliminate snob zoning. As in any other economic sector, prices in the housing market are driven by supply and demand, and government often curtails the supply in numerous ways.

Minimum lot sizes drive up prices by making buyers purchase more land and by limiting the number of lots that can be sold in a given area. Even generally pro-regulation writers like Paul Krugman concede "national housing prices have risen much faster than construction costs since the 1990s, and land-use restrictions are the most likely culprit."

Historic districts—Richmond alone has more than a dozen—can have similar effects. So can housing codes that restrict the number of people who can live in a single residence, which has been an occasional source of friction in places such as Northern Virginia. Fairfax is the second-richest county in the nation, and folks in its tony neighborhoods have not been pleased to see immigrants crowding into McMansions or running businesses out of the garages.

(4) Encourage immigration. Although federal laws determine who gets into the country, states and localities can be more or less welcoming (just ask Prince William Board Chairman Corey Stewart). To put it baldly, immigrants are great for the economy: They are twice as likely to start a new business as native-born Americans, and are less likely than natives to commit crime. That's true even of illegal immigrants, by the way. Letting poor people come to America and get rich by creating jobs for Americans. What's not to like?

(5) Pare back Puritanism. Privatizing the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control probably isn't going to happen; state lawmakers are too hooked on the revenue. But at the least, Virginia should allow the sale of hard spirits in groceries and mom-and-pop stores, thereby sharing with small entrepreneurs some of the profits that now go solely into the state's pocket.

Likewise, legalizing marijuana would create a profitable new industry in the Old Dominion by permitting the sale of a product that is less dangerous than alcohol. That, too, may be too much for this temperamentally conservative state. But decriminalizing marijuana possession would address the stark racial disparity in marijuana arrests: African-Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession, even though blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates.

Marijuana-related racial disparities have not disappeared in places where pot is now legal, but both arrests overall and the degree of disproportionality have declined. More marijuana freedom would reduce the inequality in arrests—along with the loss of income, reduced job prospects, and other ills attendant upon it.

All of these proposals would make people both more free to do as they wish, and more equal in the economic and social scales. If politicians are looking for common ground (a big if, but work with me here), these would make a good place to start.

This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. I think making Virginia more loving is how it will get better.

    1. Virginia says it is for lovers. But we all know about the famous case Loving v. Virginia.

    2. I’m doing what i can, within the constraints of monogamy and good taste.

      1. What do you want, good monogamy or good taste!!?!?

        (As for me, when I want a goodie-woodie-two-shoes, I love monogamy with mahogany! The Dutch had the right ideas, about those wooden shoes, for us foot fetishists!)

        1. You realize what you just did, revealing that you are a foot fetishist. All the replies to your comments will now somehow reference this fact.

  2. Principled political disagreements in the U.S. tend to revolve around two noble ideals: liberty and equality.

    What is so noble about equality? Equality is a childish emotion that can only be achieved with force. Equality means the lowest common denominator. You can’t make stupid people smart, so you must reduce everyone to the level of a dunce. You can’t make lazy people succeed, so you must reduce everyone’s standard of living to that of a sloth.
    No, there is nothing at all noble about equality. The means is violence and the outcome is shared misery.

    1. It depends on what kind of equality you mean. I think we can all agree that equality before the law is a good thing, and that includes equal rights to engage in a profession. (Equal ability to succeed in it is another story.)

      1. I think we can all agree that equality before the law is a good thing, and that includes equal rights to engage in a profession.

        I think we all know that those who promote equality despise both of those things. The law should treat everyone differently depending on what demographic they belong to. After all, how can it be equal and treat everyone the same, when everyone is not the same? It must give privileges to some and penalize others. That’s how you achieve equality. And equal rights to engage in a profession? That’s a recipe for income inequality, which as you should know is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Children starve to death because of income inequality. Liberty means tyranny of the rich, and death to the poor. Duh.

        1. Excuse me, citizen, but I will need to see your writer’s license, after having seen what you have written here…

    2. The only equality that matters is equality of opportunity, a.k.a. liberty.

      1. How can everyone have equal opportunity unless those who provide opportunities are forced to dole them out based upon race, sexual orientation, familial wealth, education, and a host of other factors? A poor kid from the hood doesn’t have the same opportunity as a rich kid from the burbs. The rich kid must be restrained and deprived of opportunity until he is at the same level as the poor kid. That is equality. Why do you hate the poor?

        1. Hey, you can’t start a thread seriously and then switch to sarcasm. You have to be sarcastic all the time, otherwise you’ll confuse the newcomers.

  3. “Principled political disagreements”, like unicorns, no longer exist.
    However, the shrill whining of those who want to rule the masses with an iron hand will continue until they win.
    The sad truth is that those who advocate individual freedom cannot force people to be free, but the fascists can continue to implement by force; see healthcare, healthcare insurance.
    Over time, the entire economy, and thereby the country, and thereby the populace, will come under control of the state.
    But it is for the children. (with a reasonable bit of graft to reward the clear thinkers)

    1. Principled political disagreements definitely exist! It’s just that the principles aren’t usually advertised sincerely.

  4. You left out “Destroy the bridges over the Potomac River”

    1. I can’t imagine the effect that would have on the region’s already struggling metro system.

    2. It’s way too late for Occupied Northern Virginia. Fortify the Rappahannock and you might stop the rot.

      1. I understand Marye’s Heights is a great defensive position.

      2. Too late for that. People are already commuting to DC from Spotsylvania and Culpeper counties. That is like a 1.5-2 hour commute. Imagine spending 4 hours a day in your car. Actually, I know some people that do that and, particularly for the men, it is their favorite time of the day.

  5. I am really happy to read this post.
    I will plan to go virginia soon

  6. Blue staters fuck up blue state, move to red state because it’s better. Keep voting blue then fuck up blue state.

    See: Virginia, Colorado, etc

    1. Even fucking up New Hampshire.

    2. When I was in high school, I remember Vermont being about the most Republican of states.

  7. 5 Easy Ways to Make Virginia Better

    1. Eject nova from the Commonwealth to be annexed by D.C.
    2. Eject nova from the Commonwealth to be annexed by D.C.
    3. Eject nova from the Commonwealth to be annexed by D.C.
    4. Eject nova from the Commonwealth to be annexed by D.C.
    5. Eject nova from the Commonwealth to be annexed by D.C.

    1. Build a wall from the WV border just east of Berryville south to Warrenton, then south-southeast to Locust Grove, then east to the Potomac estuary near King George. It’s too late for Fredericksburg and all points north.

      1. Yo, where you live is just as blue.

  8. Ah yes. Criminal Aliens are the answer. Bring more in! When Reason helps MS13 rent next door, I’ll listen.

  9. Make Virgina better?

    Legalize radar detectors.

    1. And stop jailing people for speeding. Yes, that’s a thing.

      1. Keep it under 80 mister.

    2. That should be number one on the list as the easiest to do.

  10. I totally misread the headline as “5 Easy Ways to Make Vagina Better.” Now I’m all disappointed. I would be embarrassed if I had the capacity for that.

    1. Vagina is already perfect. If you don’t like it, may be it’s not the thing for you. Have you considered man butt?

      1. Nothing is perfect, but vagina comes close. But not all vaginas are created equal. There are those that could use improvement.

  11. folks in its tony neighborhoods have not been pleased to see immigrants crowding into McMansions or running businesses out of the garages.

    Don’t they have a town nearby where they can pack all the illegal servants together? Sheesh.

    1. (3) Eliminate snob zoning. As in any other economic sector, prices in the housing market are driven by supply and demand, and government often curtails the supply in numerous ways.

      At the same time, seems rather brazen to say ‘supply and demand’ and then say nothing about driving demand;

      The minimum wage in D.C. rises by a dollar to $12.50 on July 1. With the increase, the District of Columbia is now on the first rung of the stepladder to a $15 minimum wage.

      1. Snobs pay good money to live sort-of near only other snobs. I can’t see why they would agree to give up their quality of life for some strangers. Oh, I get it – they won’t get the choice.

  12. Simple, but not easy.

  13. 5 Ways to make Virginia better? Let’s see….

    1) Make the Feds accept responsibility for Alexandria and surrounds.

    2) Shell Dulles and tear up the Dulles Access Road

    3) Herd all the remaining Democrats into Richmond, burn it down, and sew the ground with salt.

    Anyone got two more?

    1. Hey, leave Richmond alone, it’s an okay city.

      1. Richmond has African-American biker gangs, so it can’t be all bad.

  14. Didn’t see anything about destroying Washington DC?

    1. I say we take off and nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

      1. The universe will owe us big time

    2. Destroy DC and the pestilence will emerge somewhere else. Leave it where we can see it.

  15. Bankrupt DC.

    That’ll improve VA immensely, making most of their problems self-emigrate.

    1. Honestly, dispersing the headquarters of various government departments throughout the states instead of concentrating them in DC would better serve the country as it’s built now. Considering that DC was essentially a political compromise in an era where everyone was concentrated on the east coast, it’s current location is socially and functionally outdated.

      Placing the Department of the Interior in Pueblo, CO or Rapid City, SD for example, makes more sense than having them on the east coast since so many federal lands are being managed out west. Put DoD HQ in St Louis and split the branch service HQs to strategic locations around the country (San Diego or Norfolk for the Navy, Colorado for the Air Force, etc.). Put Health and Human Services in Montgomery, AL. HUD in Detroit.

      The goal is basically to de-centralize the government and get these bureaucrats living and working in places outside the Megacity One bubble so they can relate better to how people outside that world actually have to live. Doing so would probably cut down on a lot of culture war bullshit as well, since only people in the DC-NY and I-5 axes actually believe tranny bathrooms are more important than building local economies. Getting an earful from some construction worker who lives paycheck to paycheck might do these fuckers some good.

      1. That works so well for the DMV…

        But I like the hope.

        1. Rebellions are built on hope.

      2. Placing the Department of the Interior in Pueblo, CO or Rapid City, SD for example, makes more sense than having them on the east coast since so many federal lands are being managed out west. Put DoD HQ in St Louis and split the branch service HQs to strategic locations around the country (San Diego or Norfolk for the Navy, Colorado for the Air Force, etc.). Put Health and Human Services in Montgomery, AL. HUD in Detroit.

        Put the EPA in Alaska, to boot. When the agency is shut down for months at a time due to snow, the country is better.

  16. Addressing the way supply is constrained for health care practitioners will help cut costs. You hardly ever see politicians address health care costs.

  17. Ed Gillespie is certainly not any of the five answers.

    1. He actually raises quite a few more questions.

  18. “They are twice as likely to start a new business as native-born Americans”

    Citation needed.

    The link is to an article that makes the same claim without data. It links to another article that makes the claim without data. That one links to a stack of economic reports and a quick perusal of the multi hundred pages did not find the data.

    I think this is a claim too good to fact check and it is getting parroted by people who haven’t seen the actual numbers. And then the gloss over the distinction between h1b visas and illegal immigrants.

    So. Fuck. You.

  19. For a minute there, I was worried about Ms. Postrel.

  20. RE: 5 Easy Ways to Make Virginia Better

    Another good idea is to eliminate the archaic state income tax.
    Only good would come from that.

    1. Virginia had a chance to ditch its income tax when Bob McDonnell was governor, but instead the GOP that controlled all levels of state government at that time was more interested in transvaginal probes.

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  22. I say we take off and nuke the entire state from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

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