Glenn Garvin was in Florida when Hurricane Andrew swept through the state in 1992. He wrote about the public and private responses to the disaster in this January 1993 Reason magazine: "Reaping the Whirlwind". Lots of interesting observations. Like this one:
"...local governments have joined with the construction industry to prevent timely and affordable rebuilding. Much of Dade County is in ruins. About 135,000 dwellings were damaged by the hurricane, perhaps 28,000 completely destroyed. About 82,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. It would take local contractors a decade or more to do all the work. Even the simplest tasks, such as getting a window pane replaced, require going on waiting lists of at least two months.
With so much work waiting to be done, and plenty of money from insurance companies and the federal government available to finance it, hundreds of out-of-town companies have come to Miami to help. It's a classic case of market forces at work�or it would be, if local governments and contractors hadn't entered into a cabal to thwart them. As Charles Lennon, executive director of the South Florida Builder's Association, observed: "We don't need 6,000 unemployed carpenters from Massachusetts clogging up Interstate 95 looking for a job." To see that they won't be, Dade County officials within days of the hurricane ruled that out-of-county contractors can't do any work until they pass a temporary licensing test. And that test will be given...sometime. In early October, county officials still hadn't gotten around to scheduling the first exam..."
I wonder how this came out. When was the test administered? What was its content? How were out of town contractors integrated into the reconstruction effort. I can see some utility in informational licensing of contractors, but I can also see how this might be used to restrict effort as well - which is the purpose Garvin is suggesting.
This is an interesting article, but it is basically a collection of anecdotes from the Andrew recovery, organized to illustrate the government's incompetence and the vitality and utility of the spontaneous private sector response.
I learned about this from Virginia Postrel
Revised 8-23-04 (title change)