This is a Job for Super Regulator!

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
Gillian Hadfield on Law and Ru... Gabriel Zucman on Inequality, ...

legal infrastructure.jpg What if librarians were charged with coming up with the next search engine? Would the legal infrastructure in place today support, complicate, or even hinder their efforts? Would the American Library Association be of help? Would they be able to do it fairly, allowing open access to others?

This compelling thought experiment closed this week's EconTalk episode with University of Southern California professor of law and economics Gillian Hadfield. Hadfield argues that the US legal structure, while well-suited to the 2oth century, is in need of an update. She has suggestions for this process, which host Russ Roberts says suffer a marketing problem. Can you help?

1. Why do we need to "reinvent the law," according to Hadfield, and what does she suggest such a reinvention might entail?

2. What is "super-regulation" and how might this allow regulatory regimes to be more innovative? Why does Roberts suggest that this idea has a marketing problem? Do you think this problem is surmountable? Why or why not?

3. How do "certification regimes" (such as for Kosher food and organic products) differ from Hadfield's "super-regulatory" structure? Which would be better equipped to manage the future of autonomous vehicles, and why? (You may wish to revisit the recent episode with Benedict Evans for inspiration.)

4. Why does Hadfield assert that the US legal infrastructure would be better served if the legal profession were structured more like the medical profession? To what extent do you agree, and why? (Another hint: You may wish to revisit Roberts's conversation with Christy Ford Chapin on the role of the American Medical Association in the evolution of the American health care system...)

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
SaveyourSelf writes:

4. Why does Hadfield assert that the US legal infrastructure would be better served if the legal profession were structured more like the medical profession?

  • Gillian Hadfield notes that the medical profession has a much larger quantity of license types in medicine, allowing for—she believes—lower prices in medicine than in Law, where only lawyers are permitted to do any type of law.
To what extent do you agree, and why?
  • Hadfield’s major argument centers on prices being higher than necessary due to licensing restrictions. This is true. Licensing restrictions—when enforced by governments—decrease supply, which increases price. Interestingly, she does not advocate for removal of government enforced licensing restrictions. She argues for greater variety and numeracy of the types of government enforced licensing restrictions in the legal field.
  • Similarly, in medicine, too few doctors are graduated to satisfy demand, which pushes up prices. Graduation rates are controlled by a board called the, ‘Liaison Committee on Medical Education,’ which is “jointly sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical association.” [citation]
    The committees decrees are then, “recognized,” by the US Department of Education. Graduating from an, “LCME approved,” college of medicine is required to obtain a government enforced license, though workarounds sometimes exist. Thus, there are—at least—two means of restricting the supply of doctors linked in a vertical chain [there is a name for monopolies linked in a vertical chain but it escapes me atm]. The end result is high prices to see doctors and long waiting times to see doctors and overworked doctors. So making the legal profession more like the medical profession may not be a great plan.
  • But back to the medical field. In recognition of the huge shortfall in supply in medicine and the huge potential rewards for meeting that demand, various non-MD groups have attempted to make inroads in the field of medicine. To begin with, doctors apprenticed extenders like nurses and physician assistants. Extenders created programs to teach the skills of being an extender. The extenders made their own license authorities. Government backing of their licensing authority was secured. The licensed extenders then slowly pushed for greater independence from the doctors. At present there are physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, podiatrists, not to mention chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, herbalists, vitamin salesmen, etc. This is why there are so many license types in medicine.
  • Lawyers, it appears, do not have the same centrally planned restriction on graduation rates. I was once told that there are 10 lawyers graduated for every one doctor who graduates. This may be why there are fewer subspecialty license types in law. They may not be necessary. The lawyers may be meeting the demand enough to keep prices low enough to discourage competition. But, even if that is the case, it is likely that prices could be even lower if a government enforced license structure did not exist.

SaveyourSelf writes:

US medical school graduates in 2016 = 18,938 [citation med]

US Law school graduates in 2016 = 37,124 [citation law]

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