I am not a libertarian or any kind of market fundamentalist, so I don’t object in principle to government regulation. I object to overregulation, and stupid regulation. So, it seems, does Matt Yglesias, whose experience trying to become a small businessman in Washington, DC, caused him to have a Strange New Respect for the antiregulatory viewpoint. Excerpt:
The striking thing about all this isn’t so much that it was annoying—which it was—but that it had basically nothing to do with what the main purpose of landlord regulation should be—making sure I’m not luring tenants into some kind of unsafe situation. The part where the unit gets inspected to see if it’s up to code is a separate step. I was instructed to await a scheduling call that ought to take place sometime in the next 10 business days.
Not that I expect your pity. I don’t even pity myself. Going through the process, I mostly felt lucky to be a fluent-English-speaking college graduate with a flexible work schedule. But the presence of a stray pamphlet offering translation into Spanish, Chinese, or Amharic seemed like it would be only marginally useful to an immigrant entrepreneur. A person who needs to be at her day job from 9 to 5 would have a huge problem even getting to these offices while they’re open.
The bureaucratic hassles of entrepreneurship turn out to vary pretty substantially from place to place. The World Bank has a fairly crude measure of how easy it is to start a business in different countries and ranks the United States 13th. North of the border in Canada (ranked third), there’s typically just one “procedure”—a paperwork filing, basically—needed to launch a business. In America, it takes more like six.
UPDATE: A number of you who are regular Yglesias readers say that Yglesias has been complaining for some time about overregulation in housing, i.e., that this is not a new thing for him. Thanks for the clarification.