Common Wisdom: Pass laws to force a good result! That is the cry of many legislators, often pushed on by many of their constituents. So, for example, faced with severe traffic congestion and nasty air pollution in Mexico City, legislation was passed restricting people to drive their cars only on odd or even-numbered days of the month, based upon the odd or even last number on their car’s license plates. This was done to force people either to carpool or take public transportation. And legislation was passed in cities like Santa Monica and San Francisco to control the rent that landlords could charge for apartments, so that “fair rent” would be made available for their tenants.
Results: Many people in Mexico City purchased second cars with license plates that would allow them to drive on the days their first car didn’t. Of course, most of these were older cars that caused additional air pollution. And, yes, some lucky tenants in rent-control cities had their rents frozen at below-market rates. But this program severely reduced the availability of apartments in those cities for many other people. Why? Since apartment owners were restricted to a lower return on their investments, not only did they not build new apartment buildings, they also went to great (and logical) lengths to turn their present apartments into condominiums – or parking lots!
Moral: Government attempts to interfere in the marketplace often result in many unwanted and unintended consequences, like, in these cases, even greater pollution and a lower availability of apartments. But Liberty, here defined as freedom to engage in the free-enterprise system of supply and demand, achieves better outcomes. Specifically in the area of transportation, competition breeds innovative ideas that result in things like Uber, electric cars and rental bicycles, all of which reduce congestion and improve air quality. Similarly, fewer needless regulations in constructing apartment buildings will reduce their cost and, thus, increase the availability of lower-cost apartments which, through competition, will reduce the rents that can be charged. In other words, once again, Liberty works!
Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice
President, along with Governor
Gary Johnson as the candidate for President
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