Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Mixed Economy 101
or, Putting the DEMAND in demand

The student of rudimentary economics — or of simple observation for that matter — will recognize that where there is a demand in a free market there will be entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to supply the demand. In a market forever compromised by endless legislation, regulations, policies, procedures and bureaucratic boondoggles, however, it doesn't take much for anyone to confuse market demands with DEMANDS made on the market — for special interests it is an irresistable temptation. And, of course, it's a confusion that the monopolistic purveyor of forcible demands is quite pleased to supply. From the London Free Press:

Private sector, look out: Ontario's disabled population is growing in numbers and financial clout. And new legislation intended to improve their access to public places and private businesses is about to grow some teeth.
If the numbers and financial clout of the disabled consitute a genuine demand, wouldn't private businesses be improving access to supply the demand on their own, obviating the need for legislation? Of course, but one rationale for government intervention in the economy has always been that the market does not adequately respond to demand. The demand just needs to be exaggerated by vocal political demonstration to prove the point — which is, of course, to substitute political demand for real demand.
In stages, the legislation will require public and private places to identify and remove barriers for goods, services, accommodations and workplaces.

Kash Husain, chairperson of London's accessibility advisory committee, said the private sector must understand the need to cater to the disabled.
Remove the "understand the need to" and the private sector's role is perfectly understood. Legislative force doesn't require any understanding beyond the compulsory rituals and the penalties attached for non-compliance — condescending bleats about compassion or genuine understanding of people's needs are simply efforts to appropriate common sentiments on behalf of legislative force in order to beguile the population into thinking it is governed by consensual moral authority. But again, if so, why the need for legislation?
Standards will be developed for such areas as pedestrian routes into buildings, lower counter heights at cash registers, large-print menus, accessible washrooms, wheelchair ramps for theatres, directions and information in braille and staff training in dealing with learning-disabled customers.
Welcome to the demand economy. Like the welfare state, mixed economy legislation like this is, of course, nothing more than a redistribution scheme that subsidizes some people at the expense of others for political purposes. There being a limited tolerance for the tax bill costs of outright redistribution schemes like welfare, health care and education, in which the government is collecting taxes and directly redistributing the money, most actual redistribution schemes use legislation and regulation to force the private sector to accrue costs that are passed on to its customers. Providing services to disabled people may strike one as more fair if it didn't require such appalling duplicity.


Pete said...

A student of common sense would also note that most legislation comes about in response to a percieved problem. If the market is taking care of that problem then there is no need for government intervention.

However in the case of (pre-Public) health care, education, and accessibility the private sector was woefully unprepared to take on a social burden--isn't private enterprise about profit anyways?

For example the restaraunt I work at requires patrons to go down a flight of stairs to use the washrooms, indeed you have to go up a step to get into the restaruant at all. Parapelgics are unable to access the establishment because of the owners notorious reputations for being cheap and cutting costs where ever he sees them.

It's more profitable to not spend money on building ramps and accessible bathrooms than admitting the few physically disabled people who are unable to even enter the establishment. The fact that the private sector does not meet the needs of potential patrons for whatever reason reinforces the need for legislation that addresses these needs.

It is not some evil conspiracy of special interest, but common sense. Indeed this line of thought has been used to date the biblical book of Deuternomy (the difference in the code of laws between Deut and Exodus reflect an increase in forms of "witch craft" in the region at the time of the book's "discovery" during renovations of the temple).


Lisa said...


A "perceived problem" does not entail the "need" for government regulation, nor does it legitimize the enforcement of such regulations, especially when applied to private businesses who are under no obligation to shoulder the "social burden" of the week. The situation is analagous to banning smoking in private establishments - some people might be bothered by cigarette smoke, but they are free to go elsewhere. Likewise with disabled people if they find the amenities lacking.

The requirement that all private businesses make their establishments assessible to all is not only impossible - How are we to simultaneously accomodate the needs of midgets and giants alike? - but a forceful and illegitimate intrusion of property rights. Furthermore, many current workplace accessibility fads have proven damaging to non-disabled workers.

The majority of people are not disabled and the regulations requiring businesses to make their buildings universally accessible would put many right out of business. If it is more profitable to NOT spend the money on ramps and accessible bathrooms, that means the business expects very few disabled patrons. That sucks for prospective disabled patrons, but a disability does not mean you have a right to universal access. Should all homeowners install wheelchair ramps in case someone in a wheelchair might one day drop by for a visit?

On the other hand, making your establishment accessible to disabled users could be profitable. Restaurants installing ramps etc. would attract those with special needs and so disabled patrons and evil capitalists alike would be satisfied.

In an ideal world, there would not be disabled people, but unfortunately we live in the real world and not everyone can be a Wilt Chamberlain.

MapMaster said...

A "perceived problem" is not a real demand, it's a political demand. Evidence that the market responds in proportion to the "problem" is in the number of restaurants, theatres and other facilities that do provide access to the disabled, and I've seen plenty. They may do it for profit motives, for PR, or for the altruistic motivations you cite — does it matter? It's being done anyway.

It may have missed your attention, but the restaurant at which you work and others are private property. Is it your position that every person has a right to other people's private property?

hortonaj said...

I agree the "social burden" should not be forced on any owner of private property. An ideal world, there would not be disabled people, so lets kill them. It would likely be highly efficent.I am sure many companies would offer quite competitive prices on mass culls and individual killings. They would no longer impose themselves on us.