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An Open Letter to a Solon in Illinois

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Rep. Camille Lilly (D – 78th District)
Illinois House of Representatives
Springfield, IL

Rep. Lilly:

You propose legislation that “Provides that no gas may be pumped at a gas station in this State unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station.” It’s reported [2] that your “office says the idea behind the bill is to create more jobs in the state.”

I here resist the temptation to insist on the necessity of making boring calculations such as of the number of non-gasoline-station jobs that would be destroyed as a result of motorists spending more money to fuel their cars and, hence, having less money to spend at local restaurants, theaters, and other retail establishments.

Instead, I embrace the spirit of your proposal. Yet when I do so I see that your proposal is far too modest! You should think much bigger!

For example, rather than prevent people merely from pumping their own gas, the government should also prevent people from washing and parking their own cars. Just as a prohibition on self-service gas pumping will create jobs for gas pumpers, a prohibition on self-service car-washing will create jobs for car washers, while a prohibition on self-service parking will create jobs for car parkers.

Indeed, even the above is too modest. How about a prohibition on self-service driving! That way, lots of jobs will be created for chauffeurs!

The possibilities are limitless. You should survey the full range of tasks that ordinary Illinoisans do for themselves and consider outlawing all such self-service in the name of creating jobs. Think of the number of jobs, and the attendant riches, that will bless the state of Illinois if you and your colleagues outlaw also the likes of, say, self-dressing and self-grooming (create jobs for ladies’ maids and men’s valets!), self-cooking (create jobs for household chefs!), and self-telephone-dialing (bring back all those jobs for switchboard operators!).

If your economic logic is sound, the possibilities for enriching Illinoisans with other such prohibitions are enormous!

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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