Libertarian law professor Richard Epstein's new column is up at the Hoover Institution Web site. It's about the Americans With Disabilities Act:
To this day, I recall an incident that occurred years ago at the University of Chicago. The occasion was the dedication of the new law school clinic building. A woman attendee with a broken leg was seated in a wheel chair when our group came to a set of steps next to which was a chairlift that no one had the key to and which no one knew how to operate. The solution was easy enough. Three or four of us picked up the woman in her wheelchair and carried her down the steps.
It is easy to protest that no one in a wheelchair should be dependent on the grace and kindness of other individuals. But the opposite is true: In a good civil society, it is exactly that kind of conduct that allows for inexpensive labor to substitute for highly impracticable and unsightly capital "improvements" that do little or no good to anyone. Indeed, the high cost of retrofitting existing buildings routinely leads their owners to postpone their renovations, with resulting inconveniences to future users, to the construction, and to other workers who could have profited from the earlier work. Ironically, in a world without the ADA, the new premises would on average be friendlier to disabled persons than the existing structures. Unfortunately, those hidden losses are not taken into account in setting ADA compliance rules.