Mats Jarlstrom acknowledges that he is unusually passionate about traffic signals — and that his zeal is not particularly appreciated by Oregon officials.You can't fight city hall. But in Oregon, citizen, if you use mathematics to make your case, you're busted for practicing engineering without a license.
His crusade to make traffic lights remain yellow longer — which began after his wife received a red-light camera ticket — has drawn some interest among transportation specialists and the media. But among the power brokers in his hometown, Beaverton, it has elicited ridicule and exasperation.
“They literally laughed at me at City Hall,” Mr. Jarlstrom recalled of a visit there in 2013, when he tried to share his ideas with city counselors [c.q.] and the police chief.
We laugh. It's Oregon, after all, hipsters, technocrats, and Silicon Valley exiles fleeing interest-only mortgages. But then it gets interesting.
The lawsuit is the latest and perhaps most novel shot in the continuing campaign against the proliferation of state licensing laws that can require costly training and fees before people can work. Mr. Jarlstrom is being represented by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian organization partly funded by the billionaire brothers and activists Charles G. and David H. Koch.Admit it, dear reader: the Times mentioning the (political) Koch brothers and the Obama administration in parallel, and in agreement (and supported by social science, no less!) on the deadweight loss of licensing cartels isn't something you see every day.
Conservatives are not the only ones worried that willy-nilly licensing requirements for occupations from hair braiding to florists are constricting employment and economic growth. The Obama administration and labor economists across the political spectrum have also criticized what they see as unnecessary and expensive work restrictions.
Most of the lawsuits brought by the institute against state licensing boards argue that they are unconstitutionally interfering with individuals’ right to earn a living. They complain that the boards are more interested in keeping out competition than protecting consumers against inept practitioners.
The story goes on to present other manifestations of Expertise Hiding Behind Credentials (Shut Up, Peasant) in a way that suggests being skeptical of Technocratic Visions isn't necessarily problematic.