23 October 2008

Actually, I’m Joe the Plumber

It’s a bit hokey, but this John McCain ad shows a bit of creativity:




Reminds of the greatest scene in the movie Spartacus which, its historical innaccuracies notwithstanding, is one of my favorites. It would have been better if the McCain ad could have been done in a way that reflects the way the media have gone after Joe the Plumber because then it could have looked more like this:



But then, Pepsi has already done that:



Lew Rockwell likes to refer to him as Joe the Outlaw:

[W]e…have an American archetype in Joe Wurzelbacher. He is an outlaw in the same sense that our founders were outlaws. He lives outside the regulations of the state because these regulations attack his freedom and property. It was to end systems such as this that the American revolution came to be. And yet we find ourselves back in exactly the same system, and one incredibly worse in every way.
Rockwell also takes on the media discovery that Joe is not a licensed plumber:

The press reports on this were explosive, with reporters speaking as if they had caught this guy red-handed and completely discredited him. But what about the complete absurdity of the idea that you have to have a license in order to have the right to fix someone else's sink? This is Soviet like, but deeply entrenched in American professional life.

The idea of licensing is that it assures quality standards. But this is just a cover used by guilds since the Middle Ages. The real goal of licensing is to create a professional cartel. Fewer providers means higher wages for those with licenses. It is all about boosting income by restricting competition. This is of course a violation of human rights because it impinges on the fundamental freedom of association.

In a market setting, there are plenty of quality controls through professional organizations. Consumers are free to use them or not. Many private producers attempt to create cartels through this means, but it is rarely successful. There are always producers who break with the guild in order to charge lower prices for their services. This is why they often seek state regulations, such as the requirement that all plumbers have a license.

By the way, this is true of all professions, including lawyering and doctoring. There was a time when entry into these fields was governed by the free market, and the system worked fine (contrary to legend). But the big players in these industries sought and obtained state privileges to officially license service providers. It was an income-boosting tactic and it worked.

By practicing plumbing without a license, Joe is bucking the system in a truly heroic way. He shouldn't be condemned for this. He should be celebrated as a freedom fighter.
I’d like to have a beer or twelve with Joe the Plumber.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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