Examining the Right to Earn a Living Act, part 7

Having issued its findings and justified its purpose, the Right to Earn a Living Act moves on to its next section. The definitions section makes very clear what it would address in law.

(A) “Agency” shall be broadly construed to include the state, all units of state government, any county, city, town, or political subdivision of this state, and any branch, department, division, office, or agency of state or local government.

What constitutes an agency for the purpose of the Right to Learn a Living Act? The term is “broadly construed,” which means it is intended to capture as many aspects of governance conceivable. The term casts a wide net, in other words.

Note how the agencies aren’t limited to state government, but also to all manner of local governmental units, whether they are in a county, city, town, or some other political subdivision.

(B) “Entry regulations” shall include any law, ordinance, regulation, rule, policy, fee, condition, test, permit, administrative practice, or other provision relating to a market, or the opportunity to engage in any occupation or profession.

The act would also define “entry regulations” broadly. They could be any of a list of ten distinct kinds of provisions plus a catch-all (“other provision”), provided they are “relating to a market or the opportunity to engage in any occupation or profession.” In short, it’s an entry regulation if it stands between you and your engaging in work.

A key insight here is that an entry regulation isn’t just a law, rule, regulation, or ordinance. It could also be a policy, a condition, a test, a permit, some kind of administrative practice, even a fee.

(C) “Public service restrictions” shall include any law, ordinance, regulation, rule, policy, fee, condition, test, permit, or other administrative practice, with or without the support of public subsidy and/or user fees.

Here we have the same broad categories of “entry regulations” applied to “public service restrictions.” What are they? As explained by Clint Bolick for the Goldwater Institute,

[L]ocal governments often limit competition through monopolies for public services, such as trash collection. Certificate of need laws, typically enacted at the state level, require new entrants in businesses such as outpatient surgery centers, ambulance services, and taxicabs, to demonstrate that existing companies cannot meet demand. Still other state laws forbid sales of certain goods, such as automobiles, contact lenses, and wine, directly to consumers. Disruptive technologies such as Uber and Airbnb are shoe-horned into outmoded regulatory systems or banned altogether.

Public service restrictions are essentially entry regulations that affect individual enterprises rather than just individual workers. These would include:

In the interest of broadly construing public service restrictions, then, the act makes it clear it is not necessary that these things be supported by public subsidies or user fees.

(D) “Welfare” shall be narrowly construed to encompass protection of members of the public against fraud or harm. This term shall not encompass the protection of existing businesses or agencies, whether publicly or privately owned, against competition.

The act here chooses a narrow construction for “welfare,” specifically for the “protection of members of the public against fraud or harm.” A broad construction here would easily slip into protecting businesses against competition, an outcome so obvious the act specifically mentions it as outside the definition of “welfare.”

This narrow construction of “welfare” is based on the often-unseen dangers posed by arbitrary regulation to would-be workers, their communities, and consumers, not to mention the risk of worse service outcomes.

Furthermore, by expressly stipulating that “welfare” doesn’t include shielding an existing business or agency (public or private) from competition, the act is in keeping with an elegant passage in the North Carolina State Constitution:

Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.

Protecting competition itself rather than select competitors is what furthers public welfare. That is the genius of a free state.

(E) “Subsidy” shall include taxes, grants, user fees or any other funds received by or on behalf of an agency.

This seems straightforward, but it is important to include user fees and other funds.

With those terms having been defined, the act can proceed into clear law.


Posts examining the Right to Earn a Living Act:

Part 1: A fundamental civil right
Part 2: A well-known path up from poverty
Part 3: Legitimate vs. arbitrary regulation
Part 4: Fewer jobs, higher prices
Part 5: Greater burden for poor workers and consumers
Part 6: Three main objectives
Part 7: Defining the terms
Part 8: A very high bar
Part 9: Defending the decision to license
Part 10: Challenging the decision to license
Epilogue: Securing rights on the local level, too

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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