Wednesday, May 13, 2015

C4L Pies Itself In Face, Licensing Regs

I previously talked about the Campaign For Liberty's system for deciding whether someone was a friend or enemy. To review briefly, they believe that a 90% friend is a 100% enemy, and oppose legislation that moves closer to where they want to be, but doesn't get there immediately.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks is on the "Pain" list for the former Ron Paul Revolution, and therefore they sent a message blasting him for modifying a seventy year-old ordinance prohibiting door-to-door selling without a county license. The modifications to the ordinance are exempting children and tagging the permitted time to daylight hours only, instead of ending at 5pm no matter what.

Councilman Marks points out that The Campaign objects to the bill because it doesn't repeal the ordinance, but they didn't show up to testify on it before the Council. I was at a hearing related to Rain Tax rates, and local Republican Party leaders spoke out on it and several other issues, but no one from C4L attended or spoke. You can't change government without engaging, but it is official C4L policy that education of voters or politicians is a waste.

Repeal is warranted. I spoke with Councilman Marks about the ordinance and he hasn't really studied it or formed an opinion on it. (Being a dick to him about it is therefore unproductive) He is looking into it and shared with me the justification given to him from the county attorney in response to my inquiry:

The current law dates to 1937, so I don’t know what the rationale was originally. I suspect it was to provide some minimal screening of those persons whom we are willing to permit to roam our neighborhoods or stand at our schools to sell goods or services. I think the license requirement is more important than the restriction on hours. I also think most of these people are unlicensed now; if they are not required to get a license, and if they solicit during permitted hours, i.e., daylight, the police have no justification to run them out. Why take away that enforcement tool.

This is emblematic of a serious problem in the United States today: the use of licensing regimes to keep people from earning a living and allow police to investigate or harass businesses at will. Cato estimates that fully one-third of the labor market is licensed today, up six times over from just the 1950s. Generally, licenses create increased costs as current license holders work to keep competitors out of the market and establish local cartels.

Here, the justification given by the county attorney is explicit: it allows the police to stop door-to-door salespeople and "run them out". While the attorney calls it an enforcement tool, it is clearly simply a harassment tool.

There cannot be a safety justification either - even assuming the commercial ban is lawful, the First Amendment prohibits bans on door-to-door evangelism, pamphleteering, and other non-commercial purposes. Any nefarious individual seeking to go door-to-door could simply adopt one of the constitutionally protected activities as their ruse, instead of a salesman.

And it probably isn't Constitutional. Not only does the ordinance require government permission to speak to people on certain subjects (content discrimination) but it also allows certain favored groups, namely farmers, to be exempt from the licensing requirements (viewpoint discrimination) (see § 21-11-101 of the Baltimore County Code - does not permit linking)

It's a silly, restrictive ordinance prohibiting honest people from making an honest living if they choose to do it this way. It's another barrier into starting an independent business and another way to funnel everyone into working into large corporations. It is both entirely pointless and likely unlawful, and grossly unjust. The only justification given at this point has been "It lets the police harass people going door-to-door."

That's not good enough.

Jason, thank you for your back-and-forth dialogue on this issue. You've shown that intelligent people can have a conversation about important topics. I have learned a lot about this requirement and am thinking about options

I've been talking with him about this bill over the last few days, and he is more open to working to repeal it than he was before we started. Turns out talking to people works, contrary to C4L dogma.

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