I think that anyone defending climate science occasionally runs into an economist type who accuses those of us who would like to limit CO2 emissions of “rent seeking”. There is more than a whiff of contempt usually associated, which is peculiar, because the contempt tends to come from someone who (like most people) would not hesitate to rent out surplus space at the highest rate they could get.
“rent-seeking is an attempt to derive economic rent by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by adding value. An example of rent-seeking is the limitation of access to skilled occupations imposed by medieval guilds.”
Washington, D.C. is considering a bill that would require every cab driver in the city to own a special permit called a medallion. The total number of medallions would be capped at 4,000, which would reduce the current number of cabs by more than one-third and put thousands of drivers out of business. (The city government has no idea how many licensed cabs are in the district, though estimates range from 6,500 to 10,000.)
If that weren’t bad enough, most drivers wouldn’t have the option of buying a medallion. The first set of medallions would be offered for sale to the minority of cabbies who have been driving for at least five years and who live in Washington D.C. (Again the city government has no idea how many current drivers meet this criteria, but rising real estate prices and weak city services have led many drivers to leave the district.)
Who will be offered the next set of medallions, according to the bill? That would be cab companies, who could then rent medallions to drivers. This system would destroy the relatively open-access taxi industry in D.C., in which the majority of drivers are owner-operators free to make their own schedules and keep whatever money they earn on the job. In cities such as New York and Boston, drivers pay upwards of $800 a week to rent their medallions.
A libertarian blog comments:
You can think of two theories of government. One theory is that government exists to correct externalities and provide public goods. The other is that government uses the language of helping people to justify giving stuff to the politically powerful out of the pockets of the rest of us. Here’s some evidence for the second theory.
My sympathies are entirely with the small-timers who choose their own hours and can scale their efforts informally to match available demand. Here is a case where the diseconomy of scale is absolutely obvious.