Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Everything Is Not OK
I went for a haircut today. Money is no object when it comes to my appearance – only the absolute finest will do. So I went to Sport Clips in the strip mall next to Target, with a $3 coupon in hand. Like many other fashion-conscious men, I frequent this establishment and don’t think I’ve ever had my hair cut by the same person twice. Like many other seemingly mundane things, this interests me. Well, most of the things that interest me actually are mundane, I suppose. But I’m fascinated by these young ladies. Who are they? Where do they come from? Where do they go? So I’ve applied for a federal grant to study attractive, rural, 30-year-old women who cut hair at gimmicky chain barber shops.
Well, actually, no – I just talk to them. And I learn a lot.
Kaitlyn (not her real name) just moved here from Georgia. Her husband is an auto mechanic. “He can fix anything with four wheels! Well, except my car – it runs like crap!” She went on at some length about how good he was at fixing things. His plan was to start his own shop once they moved here. They moved into a double-wide trailer that had a nice pole barn out back, which he planned to outfit with electric and a high-end air compressor, maybe even a grease pit, and start his own business.
He spent almost a year working on permits, licenses, inspections, and so on. He spoke to people from the county, city, state, feds, and the EPA. He talked to attorneys, accountants, and consultants to help wade through all the red tape. After about a year, he realized that the start-up costs were more than he was willing to gamble on the eventual success of a business that did not yet exist, so he got a job with the city, maintaining their trucks and mowing equipment. It doesn’t pay very well, but it has good benefits. It’s not a bad job, she says. Nothing to complain about. Everything is ok.
Kaitlyn did a great job on my hair, was very pleasant and personable, and is clearly very intelligent. She said that a few miles from their house, a barber recently retired. She considered buying his shop. She’s always dreamed of owning her own business. She said that’s the whole reason she went to cosmetology school. I said that sounded great – the shop is already set up, it has a large group of established customers, and she could expand from there.
She said that she spent several months looking into it, but she would need permits, licenses, inspections, and so on. I pointed out that it has been a barber’s shop for years, so the inspections, permits, and so on would already be done. She said that it would be a new business, and she would have to pay for all that to be done over again. She spoke with attorneys, accountants, and consultants to help wade through all the red tape – some of the same individuals that her husband had just consulted. She soon realized that the start-up costs were more than she was willing to gamble, so she got a job with a chain. The pay is not very good, and the benefits are lousy. One reason her husband took a government job was for the health insurance for their family. But she doesn’t mind working for Sport Clips – it’s a decent job, she says. Nothing to complain about. Everything is ok.
So how does this story end?
Well, in my view, it’s already ended. This young couple from a modest background has all the potential in the world. They’re both ambitious, intelligent, and very good at a valuable skill. They’re devoted to their family, their dreams, and each other. They dream of better things and are willing to gamble, willing to work hard today for a better tomorrow, and willing to take on the additional responsibilities that come with owning a business. They’re savvy enough with modern government to hire attorneys and consultants to help with the red tape.
And even they can’t open a new business, to do something they already know how to do.
And 30 years from now, nothing will have happened.
My Uncle Fred (Frederic Bastiat) described this as the seen versus the unseen. Progressives win elections because the benefits they provide are immediate and obvious. They give people free money with taxpayer dollars, or build highways with taxpayer dollars, or start new general assistance programs with taxpayer dollars. They’re working for you, and anyone with eyes can see it. The benefits provided by progressives are seen.
But the damage they cause is mostly unseen. In 30 years, Kaitlyn and her husband could have retired to a very nice community on the Gulf Coast and played golf for the rest of their lives. But they won’t. She’ll still be cutting hair for $12 an hour plus tips, and he’ll still be fixing lawn mowers for the city. Just like they are now.
They didn’t lose a fortune, because they never had the opportunity to earn one. Nothing happened. There they sit. And there they’ll stay.
Progressives may think they’re utopians who dream of a better tomorrow. But, in reality, they are the robotic defenders of the status quo. Everything stays the same because nothing happens. And when things don’t happen, those things don’t make the evening news. They didn’t happen at all, so there’s nothing to complain about. Everything is basically ok. And that’s the way it will stay.
Until it doesn’t.
Change is scary. You never know what might happen. It might be good. It might be bad. You roll the dice like this young couple tried to do. Twice.
Or you don’t. Like progressives do, every day.
I wonder if Kaitlyn views progressives as nice people who are trying to help her. Or if she views them as well-meaning fools, as I do when I’m trying to be charitable.
But in bed late at night, I wonder if she ever hates them for destroying her life and the lives of her children.
Probably not. Because nothing really happened. And nothing ever will.
There’s nothing to complain about.
Everything is ok.
I left her a $10 tip for a $15 haircut, and I walked out. I looked good – it really was a sharp haircut. But I felt like I wanted to puke.
Everything is not ok.Published in General
As usual, Doctor, a very thought-provoking post. Now I’m upset, but thank you.
The government seems to be the biggest impediment to start-up businesses, not lack of skill or lack of a market. I wonder what the founding fathers of the nation would say if they were suddenly transported into the present.
I think you’ve hit upon the “compliance costs” that are sucking our economy dry.
This is so wrong. A great story with far more impact than the talk in abstractions about “deregulation” and “economic growth” that we get from our politicians, who will convince no one.
Charles Murray is on to this.. I don’t know if his Madison Fund ever caught on. The idea was to support business that gets tied up in ridiculous red tape, etc. with legal help. Make the regulators work to defend their policies.
In Massachusetts, it may still be necessary to prove you can do a face massage if you want a barber’s license. Has anyone ever had or seen someone getting a face massage in a barber shop?
My business was incorporated fifteen years ago. Had I known then all of the unnecessary crap I’d have to put up with along the way, I might have been scared off, too.
A face massage? I just want my hair to be shorter than it was before.
Can you massage a face? If so, I wouldn’t ask Nancy Pelosi who was good at it. Whatever that is…
This is all bonkers….
I didn’t know what that meant, so I googled it. I got this:
Thank you for your positive feedback.
In high school we were taught that regulations are necessary to protect innocent consumers and employees from greedy businessmen. It seems more likely that greedy businessmen who have friends in state legislatures get them to pass regulations making it hard for people to open new, competing businesses. In short, regulations tend to be protection for the greedy, not from the greedy.
The sad thing is that the public believes what we are taught. Practical experience has shown everyone that just because someone has a state-issued drivers license doesn’t guarantee that someone is a competent driver. But people believe that having an expensive certificate from the state is what distinguishes someone who is competent from incompetent to polish their fingernails, something that a million teenagers do with their own fingernails on a weekly basis.
Indeed and a good article. The purpose of all regulations and licensing requirements is to keep such people working for them, not as independent businesses. All of it has the purpose of limiting competition. None of it is to protect consumers. It’s a law of nature and SOP for the first 10,000 years of human economic history. We’re catching up with backwardness.
Make Ricochet Great Again!
This post is the kind of post that made Ricochet a joy to be a part of, and I love seeing them more and more.
I have a co-worker who likes to say”Driving is a privilege, and as such it can be taken away!” I always say “B*******! My right to purchase a car, learn how to drive it, and do so, is not bestowed upon me by government. ” He never agrees. But I keep saying it.
Perhaps what is needed is to grease the proper palms; “una colaboración,” as they would say in South America.
Or, #MMRGGA. Make Missouri Riverboat Gaming Great Again.
Dang. I was hoping that I had the support of the Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association.
Your kind comments are still appreciated, however…
a great narrative….really painted an easy to relate to picture. felt like I was there. Sad that such bright young folks are derailed from their dreams.
An educated, energetic and industrious populace is hard to rule over. Make their dreams unattainable and make them dependent on the system then their spirits are broken. Easy to rule over.
she should not have taken so much off the top though…..
I think “The cobbler’s children have no shoes” about covers it.
I used to get my hair cut at a barber shop about 5 minutes from the office. I always did it during lunch time. If I left the office at noon, and if no one was waiting in line, I could be back in the office at a quarter after. I loved that barber.
My current barber is a 70+ year old Italian immigrant who has 3 or 4 attractive young ladies working for him. My previous one was a 60-65 year old who was in the local news for shooting a guy who came after him for messing around with the guy’s young girlfriend. I figured a change was prudent just in case the shooter, once healed, decided to come after him at work. Oh, and my “haircuts” take about 3 minutes to complete.
What I liked about America up until now is the dearth of the need to grease the proper palms.
I used to sleep with the girl that cut my hair but it was too expensive. So now that girl and I go to a professional together. I still sleep with that girl every time I get a chance, usually every night unless I am taking her grandchildren camping or something. This has been going on for 38 years in case you are wondering, ever since we got married.
Well done Dr Bastiat and your uncle Fred
Your post was cogent, concise, convincing and yet constrained. It showed concern for others and condemns those that are not.
I would hope that the young couple is only discouraged in the short term. If they are determined and maintain this attitude perhaps something well develop. I think George Gilder wrote that this attitude is the core of our ecomonic life
The seen versus unseen issue infects many policy discussions – regulation, taxation, immigration, crime. It’s easy to relate to the person we see. It takes a lot of work to consider the impact on the person we don’t see but who is affected – or even to consider that there might be such a person somewhere.
Some months ago I was reading about a proposed [additional] regulation on employees. The newspaper surveyed existing business owners and found that none would lay off any employees because of the marginal cost of the new additional regulation, so the newspaper advocated for the regulation by saying there was no downside. But, they didn’t survey the prospective business owners who see the new regulation on top of all the pre-existing regulations, and decide that the cumulative cost of compliance makes the prospective business less of a sure thing, and therefore not worth starting.
Similarly, a few years ago there was a bunch of advocates for higher income tax rates based on surveys that showed that people would not reduce the amount that they work in response to higher income tax rates. But, those surveys were only of people who had already completed their education, training, and apprenticeships and were currently working. The surveys ignored whether young people who had not yet started school or training might decide that keeping less of what they would eventually make might make the investment in school or training a less worthwhile. To pick on @drbastiat and his profession, the surveys did not consider whether a 22 year old might decide $400,000 and 7 or 8 years for medical school is a less attractive investment if he can keep only 50% of his eventual earnings than it would be if he could keep 70% of his eventual earnings (pulling numbers out of thin air). A higher tax rate may cause him to decide not to go to medical school.
Gilder is that rarest of breeds – an endlessly optimistic economist. That book of his that you bought for me was remarkable. Just incredible.
I hope he’s right. The dreams and optimism of youthful idealism can overcome even the most dystopian progressive Utopianism. Gosh, I hope he’s right.
But we teach our children from any early age that nothing is their fault, and that they cannot overcome the barriers set in their path. The schools teach that the barriers are from wealthy white men. In reality they’re placed by progressive government. Whatever.
Can they be overcome? Do you want to try?
Our efforts to suppress youthful idealism are horrifying.
Great post Dr. B – this is all I could think of after reading it.
Great Post, Dr. Bastiat,
You put a nice personal spin on a major problem. The opportunities lost and the dreams destroyed by our Nanny Police State are in the millions. President Trump has made a dent into the problem, but only a dent. The problem is so vast, and the negative economic and personal consequences so large it is unbelievable that so many in the media and political sphere, including many Republicans, simply ignore this incredibly destructive issue and seemingly work tirelessly to deny it’s existence.
Similar concept; This card is from a game I’ve been developing:
Want to buy a copy? Too bad; you can’t. Thorny intellectual property issues.
I think I posted this once before, but it still applies:
MRGA=Make Red tape Go Away
If that young couple were in Washington State, their new business would be subject to the “Business and Occupation Tax”, a Gross Receipts tax-they pay whether their business makes money or not. Everyone thinks it’s great that WA has no income tax. This may be worse, and every type of business has a different rate. Corruption-magnet?
As a friend of mine (retired Army SgtMaj) used to say, “Simon, we were born into the slave class and there shall we die.”