IJ Creates City Studies to Show Burden of Bureaucracy

June 22, 2009

The Institute for Justice’s campaign to protect economic liberty continues roaring ahead with the filing of our challenge to Florida’s interior design cartel. Look for more such cases in the coming months.

In the meantime, this spring IJ is launching another essential facet of our economic liberty campaign. Institute attorneys will travel to Milwaukee, Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston, Denver, Newark, Miami, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia to document the real-world impact occupational licensing laws have on urban entrepreneurship. Our attorneys will dig into city hall records and travel throughout these cities to meet with struggling entrepreneurs afflicted by abusive licensing laws. The studies will provide a unique perspective on the proliferation and prevalence of laws that arbitrarily restrict entrepreneurship. In doing so, they will enable us to identify compelling clients and new litigation opportunities, and provide a national context for a major media and public education campaign. At a time when government’s increasing intrusions into the private sector are reaching unprecedented levels, our city studies will be part of the Institute for Justice’s effort to offer a counter-narrative that showcases the vital importance of entrepreneurship and free markets.

IJ just launched the first of these studies with Regulatory Field: Home of Chicago Laws , co-authored by Elizabeth Milnikel, director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School, and Emily Satterthwaite, the IJ Clinic’s assistant director. As U.S. News & World Report columnist Matt Bandyk recently reported, “Is Chicago the worst city in America to start a business? My hunch is that it is not, and if one investigated other cities with as much detail as IJ has investigated Chicago, one would find similar burdens on entrepreneurs.” IJ expects to show just that with the nine studies we have underway.

Because courts have gutted constitutional protection for economic liberty, it is no surprise that occupational licensing laws have increased, but the magnitude (nearly 30 percent of all Americans need a license to work) and the reach into totally innocuous occupations (selling flowers or massaging horses) shows just how vital it is to turn back this tide of oppressive laws. Our strategic litigation and public education campaigns are uniquely capable of achieving this goal. Our city studies will add a potent weapon to our arsenal.

Chip Mellor is IJ’s president and general counsel.

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