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Uncontroversially good legislation

by braces1 min read10th Jan 202257 comments

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Say you’re fortuitously seated next to a senator, state assembly member, or city supervisor at a wedding. You’ve got to talk about something, so you figure it wouldn’t be rude to mention some legislative issue you’re passionate about. 

What would the legislation be? 

I’m curious about almost definitely good laws that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents could all get behind. This could be at the local, state, or federal level although it seems as though there might be more obvious reforms in smaller governments. (I searched around for this here and on EA forums and didn’t find any, but would love to know about any similar lists.)

Here’s a few I could think of. These are debatable and surely reflect my own biases and limited knowledge.

  1. Price transparency: Airlines are required by the Full Fare Advertising rule to show the all-in cost whenever they advertise prices. Why not the same for hotels and food delivery, where the price jumps at the last page from taxes and fees? This would better allow businesses to compete on price rather than deception.
  2. Let us buy glasses: We can’t buy glasses or contact lenses if our eye prescription is over 1-2 years old. This means that every 1-2 years, glasses-wearers need to pay $200 to optometrists for the slip of paper (and stinging eyeballs). Seems like it’s probably a racket and the benefit from detecting the odd eye cancer is outweighed by the costs, although see the debate here. (Edit: it's actually not that hard to get around this, at least for glasses. Thanks Dustin.)
  3. Tax filing in the US should be more automated: This one is well-known (see Planet Money episode) and seems like another case of common sense vs. lobbyists. (Speaking of Planet Money, another candidate is repealing the Jones Act.)

What are some others?

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Basically any voting system but plurality voting for mutually exclusive choices.

The problem with this idea (which I fully support) is the any current elected official is likely to have benefited from the existing system. Changing the voting system might not disadvantage a particular political party (though it definitely can) it will disadvantage it's current elected officials.

6ChristianKl12dJust because someone benefited in the past from the existing system and came into power based on the system doesn't automatically mean that it's still in their interest. In the present system, a politician that's popular with the general population in his district can still lose his seat in a primary challenge. Changing to approval voting means that current elected officials have to fear extremists from their own parties running primary challenges against them less.

Here are some ideas. I'm not sure if these are uncontroversial, but they at least seem to have very few obvious downsides:
 

  1. Open the border between the United States and Canada. Practically all the arguments given against immigration liberalization don't apply to the border between Canada and the United States. Canada's crime rates are generally lower than the United States', and their wages aren't much different, implying that an inflow of workers would not substantially affect the price of labor in the US.
  2. Legalize drugs that have no reported history of major harmful or addictive effects, without a prescription. The most common argument against drug legalization is that people will harm themselves. Fair enough, but this doesn't really apply to the numerous drugs that are banned from the market that aren't addictive, like Metformin. Anecdotally, I've heard a lot of people are able to get Metformin without a prescription anyway, but the price of many drugs is typically higher than they otherwise would be if they were treated like supplements instead.
  3. Allow essentially all pharmaceuticals to be imported from outside the United States. This is a crazy one because many people don't even realize that it's a thing, but, many classes of drugs are way more expensive in the United States because it's illegal to import them from other countries. Here's an article discussing the effects of the import bans.
  4. Replace the minimum wage with a wage subsidy. The minimum wage is essentially a tax on employers, paid to their employees. Whether or not the minimum wage is good or bad overall is secondary to the question of whether employers should be the one's paying the tax in the first place.
  5. Allow citizens the choice of how their social security tax is invested. This one is probably the weakest one on my list because it could entail a partial collapse of Social Security in the United States if the money were wisely invested (though the long-run effects would probably outweigh this harm). Currently, FICA taxes (which are used to fund Social Security in the United States) are paid into the Social Security trust fund. But since the Social Security Trust fund buys US Treasury bonds, this is just a fancy way of saying that the US government promises that it will tax people in the future, in order to pay for your retirement. By contrast, if individuals could choose how their money is invested, they could invest it into productive enterprises, providing a higher rate of return. Some people are bound to make bad investments, but there's already a degree of redistribution in the Social Security system, which would be more than enough to smooth out these effects.

Whether or not the minimum wage is good or bad overall is secondary to the question of whether employers should be the one's paying the tax in the first place.

People on the left already complain when Walmart doesn't pay its employees enough so that they have to get food stamps. There seems to be a strong belief that employers should pay living wages and that this is not the job of the government.

2Viliam11dWhat are the exact rules? A good law would be something like this: If you work at Walmart for $N, you get extra $X from government. If you work anywhere else for $N or less, you also get extra $X from government. If you stop working at all, you still get $X from government. -- Written this way, it is less of a support for Walmart, because you can take it anywhere else. A bad law would be like this: you must keep working in Walmart in order to get extra $X from government. This can be done indirectly, for example if Walmart must pay a fixed fee or do some insane paperwork, which is nothing for them given their number of employees, but would ruin a smaller employer.
1korin4310dI upvoted this because it correctly explains why this is controversial, not because I think the argument is correct. I just wanted to point this out because people seem to be mixing the two up but the distinction is relevant on this post. The other part is that paying for things is extremely unpopular, and the minimum wage sounds like it doesn't cost anything.

A few days ago, this comment was at something like +22. Now it's at +9. It seems a few people strongly disagree with my recommendations. I'm curious if anyone would be willing to tell me why they disagree (though I'm most interested in disagreement with 1-4, as I admitted number 5 was "probably the weakest one on my list").

1tslarm11dI didn't downvote, but I'm curious about #4. In my country I believe 'wage subsidy' refers to limited-time payments given to employers who hire people from certain categories (e.g. long-term unemployed). They're framed as help with the initial costs of hiring, and are capped at a reasonably small amount. So it's not obvious to me how they could be an uncontroversially good replacement for the minimum wage.
4Matthew Barnett11dI don't know how the term wage subsidy is used everywhere, but I'm referring to a simpler concept. Let's say the government passes a law that says, "If you get a job, then we will pay you (through taxes) $15 for each hour that you work, which will be added to your wages." This would have a very similar effect to the minimum wage. Let's say that you apply to a ton of jobs, and your best offer offers a wage-rate of $1 an hour. If you take that job, you'll earn $1 + $15 = $16 an hour, including the wage subsidies. In effect, the wage subsidy puts a floor on the hourly wage you can get for your work. In practice, a wage subsidy is often given to employers, not employees (probably because it's easier to do so). However, theoretical supply and demand models imply that this has the same effect as giving the money directly to the worker. Here's why. Imagine you're an employer and you're trying to hire people. You know that for each person you hire, you'll get an extra $15 an hour for their labor. This makes you really interested in hiring labor. If someone asks for $16 an hour, then even if normally you'd value their labor at only $1 an hour, the deal is still worth it for you, because you'd pay $16 an hour, get $1 an hour worth of labor, and $15 from the government, yielding the same deal as before. The amount that workers end up benefiting relative to employers in this framework is called the economic incidence [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_incidence]. Real world studies estimating the incidence of wage taxes and wage subsidies generally find that it falls heavily on the workers, which justifies us believing that a wage subsidy would be beneficial to workers. But why would a wage subsidy be better than the minimum wage? By definition, the minimum wage is a price floor on labor. Consider other markets for a second: imagine we put a price floor on a pound of rice, say $50. This would mean that you can't sell a pound of rice for less than $50. This would have the e
1Ericf11dImagine you're an employer and you're trying to hire people. You know that for each person you hire, you'll get an extra $15 an hour for their labor. This makes you really interested in hiring labor. If someone asks for $16 an hour, then even if normally you'd value their labor at only $1 an hour, the deal is still worth it for you, because you'd pay $16 an hour, get $1 an hour worth of labor, and $15 from the government, yielding the same deal as before ... Why would the employer have to offer a wage higher than the subsidy? Prospective employees need food and shelter, and will accept any wage sufficient for that rather than starve. As an employer, there isn't an infinite amount of work to be done, and there are coordination and principle/agent risks in hiring more people. The offered wage is going to be based on BATNAs on both sides, not correlated to any money coming in the back door. Plus the Fraud, of course. So much Fraud.
7Matthew Barnett10dIf this were true, then there would never be any wage higher than subsistence level. Let's say it costs $2 an hour to feed someone and give them minimal shelter. Then all jobs would pay $2 an hour. But we don't observe that, implying that employees will not "accept any wage [that keeps them from starving]." The standard competition model tries to explain this by positing that employees have more than one option. Even if people don't apply to multiple jobs, in theory they could; employers know that, and so they won't generally offer employees starvation wages. There are flaws with this theory; for instance, some workers are really bad at negotiation and get exploited. But generally we strive for simple theories that explain a most of the facts before we move on to more complicated theories that can only explain a little more.
1tslarm11dGot it, thanks. I haven't watched the video you linked, but the first thing that comes to mind is the bureaucratic task of determining what qualifies as a legitimate, subsidisable job. If the eligibility criteria are generous and/or enforcement is lax, there will presumably be a lot of bullshit jobs (in both the 'not actually real' and 'real but pointless' senses) created just to claim the subsidy. Whereas a relatively strict system might have pretty high administrative costs, and would probably reject some deserving applicants.
2Matthew Barnett10dYeah, I agree with this critique. It's worth noting that the United States already implements a wage subsidy in the form of the earned income tax credit [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earned_income_tax_credit], so we can in theory see what effect that has on bullshit jobs already.
Canada's crime rates are generally lower than the United States'

Sounds like they might be the ones who wouldn't want that.


Allow essentially all pharmaceuticals to be imported from outside the United States.

I read this without the allow for a second, and it was hilarious.


Replace the minimum wage with a wage subsidy.

What is a wage subsidy? Are there countries or anything else which do this already?


Allow citizens the choice of how their social security tax is invested.

There's also the option of delegated choice. (Some risk of mismanagement though.)

The problem with the social security idea is that it assumes social security is investing your money to be paid back to you. In realty it is mostly using your money to pay out it's current obligations.

2Matthew Barnett11dYes, I agree. It seems wiser (at least to me) to switch to a system that you actually pay into (and we could even keep the redistributive effects).

Your point about minimum wage, is exactly the point I made about price controls more generally. Bravo.

https://medium.com/effective-economics/the-problem-with-price-controls-14b4ee116bf7

I have lately been using FDA delenda est as a sort of "you must be at least <this> sane about governance for me to think that your votes will add usefully adequate information to elections". (Possible exception: if you just figure out if your life is better or worse in a high quality way, and always vote against incumbents when things are getting worse, no matter the incumbent's party or excuses, that might be OK too?)

The problem with "FDA delenda est" is that while I do basically think that people who defend or endorse the FDA are either not yet educated yet about the relevant topics or else they are actively evil...

...this "line in the sand" makes it clear that the vast vast majority of voters and elected officials don't have any strong grasp on the logic of (1) medicine or (2) doctor's rights or (3) patient's rights or (4) political economy or (5) risk management or (6) credentialist hubris or (7) consumer freedom... and so on.

And applying the label "not educated enough (or else actively evil)" to "most people" is not a good move at a dinner party <3

So...

My current best idea for a polite way to talk about a nearly totally safe political thing that works as a "litmus test" and slam dunk demonstration that there are lots of laws worth fixing is:

The 13th amendment, passed in 1865, which legalized penal slavery, should itself be amended to have that loophole removed.  

Like seriously: who is still in favor of slavery?!?!?!

The 14th amendment (passed in 1868) made it formally clear that everyone in the US is a citizen by default, even and especially black people, and thus all such people are heirs by birth to the various freedoms that were legally and forcefully secured for "ourselves and our posterity" during the revolutionary war.

So then with the 14th amendment the supreme court could have looked at the bill of rights in general, and looked at who legally gets rights, and then just banned slavery for everyone based on logical consistency.

We don't need a special amendment that says "no slavery except for the good kinds of slavery" because there are no good kinds of slavery and because the rest of the constitution already inherently forbids slavery in the course of protecting a vast array of other rights that are less obvious.

Here's the entire text of the 13th, with a trivially simple rewrite:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

See how much cleaner that would be? :-)

To make your point more viscerally, here's a photo from 2011 of the still operating Angola Plantation in Louisiana:

Like seriously: who is still in favor of slavery?!?!?!

You'd be surprised.

Doing a quick search, it seems that people are already trying to close the slavery loophole:

Friday, June 18, 2021, Washington, D.C. – As Juneteenth approaches this weekend, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) have introduced the Abolition Amendment, which would strike the ‘Slavery Clause’ of the 13th Amendment that allows slavery to continue in the United States.

[...]

The introduction follows a wave of bills introduced in state legislatures acro

... (read more)

Everyone agrees that bureaucracy overall is a problem in the abstract but when it comes to particular policy issues people are often in favor of using bureaucracy to solve them.

There should be a government department that has the job of reducing bureaucracy. It's staffed with people who go through existing laws and regulations and then publish suggestions for reform that reduces bureaucracy. 

I don't see an interest group that has an interest in opposing such a proposal. 

The most powerful of all : the bureaucrats themselves. Also Moloch and entropy, so we are fighting powerful forces here.

2ChristianKl12dThe new department would employ some bureaucrats, it's not clear to me why existing bureaucrats would feel a need to fight its creation. That is why it's a job that needs a specialized team to combat it and can't just be done effectively in the existing structures.
1Dirichlet-to-Neumann10dThey would not necessarily fight its creation - although a department those aim is to fight bureaucracy may very well seem threatening to people in position of power in the diverse bureaucratic departments. But they would definitely fight its action, i.e. any attempt at changing the way they run their services.
2ChristianKl10dI do agree that the job of the department won't be easy. To the extent that you can create such a department without too much resistance, I think it makes sense to count the idea of creating the department as "uncontroversially good legislation".
1Dirichlet-to-Neumann8dI think in most timelines this ends up as just an added layer of bureaucracy, but in the few of them when it does not it's great.

I think this would probably become controversial, because removing almost any bureaucratic rule can be spun into a controversial headline since people look at what the rule is supposed to do instead of what it actually does (i.e. if you remove a safety rule that doesn't do anything but creates expensive paperwork, you're "removing rules that ensure our safety").

2ChristianKl9dThe proposal is explicitly about not removing any specific rule because that's hard but doing something else.
1korin439dI mean the bureaucracy for doing this would quickly become controversial because it does things that make bad headlines (and people would notice this before it even passes, "Why would you create the bureaucracy to get rid of rules if you don't want to make us less safe?").

Some automated phone queuing systems systems (the things where you call in and get put on hold for three days listening to music) offer a service where you can press a button, hang up and they'll call you back when you would have gotten to the end of the queue.

This should be a mandatory for all these systems.

I think this one is totally uncontroversial and I'm voting for whoever has this in their platform.

2Randomized, Controlled10dI feel unreasonably validated by this
6Dirichlet-to-Neumann8dI feel unreasonably validated by this too to be honest.

Thinking at the federal level, and mostly thinking about big stuff, but not claiming either choice is optimal. Explanation omitted because I don't have time to explain everything. Not systematic; not optimized for tractability; unordered.

  1. FDA reform.
  2. Biosecurity: regulation of hazardous research + pandemic preparedness + promoting biosecurity research.
  3. Medical licensing reciprocity (h/t Scott Alexander).
  4. Hospitals: the federal government could better-coordinate hospitals and make them more transparent (h/t Scott Alexander).
  5. Fund the IRS: auditing the rich cheating on taxes is an efficient way to increase revenue; see, e.g., Matt Yglesias. Additionally, replace private debt collection, which is quite inefficient.
  6. Housing & zoning deregulation and increasing supply of housing (h/t Matt Yglesias).
  7. Law enforcement & criminal justice reform: see, e.g., Eliezer Yudkowsky.
  8. End corporate welfare: especially fossil fuel and agriculture subsidies.
  9. Officials involved in legislation or regulation shouldn't invest in specific companies, nor should their spouses, nor perhaps sufficiently senior staffers. Perhaps they should not invest in specific industries/sectors/markets either, depending.
  10. Legislate Bostock v. Clayton County: explicitly make it illegal to discriminate in employment based on sexual orientation or transgender status. (I omitted some other obvious-to-me-but-controversial-sounding policies, but LGBT rights poll pretty well and I don't think this would be as controversial as it might sound.)
  • Other areas where I have at least a vague sense that there are potential uncontroversial reforms: education, immigration, health insurance & prescriptions, animal welfare.
  1. End "Buy American". (Disclaimers: pet issue, relatively intractable.) 97% of spending by US federal agencies and programs goes to US firms (and often only for goods produced in the US with US materials), not because that is most efficient but because it is generally required by law. This results in significantly higher costs with minimal benefits for the US economy or national security (and may have negative effects on international relations). Miscellaneous made-in-US and made-in-US-with-materials-produced-in-US requirements exacerbate waste.
  • +1 to almost everything else suggested in this post.

Aside from biosecurity and possibly medical license reciprocity, I think these are all pretty controversial.

Outside of LessWrong, everyone loves the FDA and how they "protect" us.

The IRS funding plan was discussed in NR (a major Republican media company): https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/11/when-it-comes-to-the-irs-bigger-is-not-better/

Housing reform would allow undesirable people to buy houses, and would probably make house prices drop.

Corporate welfare "creates jobs".

etc.

Not saying any of these are bad ideas, but they're not uncontroversial.

2Zach Stein-Perlman10dI agree in part; I confess I was more thinking of the laxer "could be uncontroversial in a few years" standard (and more thinking of problems than policies). But at the least, I think narrow reforms in all but 5 and 10 could be uncontroversial. We don't need to abolish the FDA or "Buy American" to make improvements. Without checking the numbers, I'm pretty sure at least some of 7 and 9 are also quite popular (and maybe part of 6, depending on scope and framing). And parts of 4 wouldn't have opponents. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Edit in brief reply to korin's reply below: I agree a little, and I apologize for not elaborating on solutions. But the following would all have few enemies if done well: make hospitals transparent, make hospitals better able to talk to each other, nationalize prisons, give body cams teeth, abolish qualified immunity, abolish bail.
1korin439dI suspect part of why these seem uncontroversial is that they're not specific enough. Everyone agrees that we should make hospitals/housing/criminal justice better, but if you actually propose a specific policy to do that it, will give money to corporate interests/be socialist/make things better for 'bad' people/make some subgroup worse off/etc.

Laws should be written more like code is written. It should not be written by passing Word documents around but there should be software like Git that makes it clear who made what amendments and that makes changes to laws transparent.

Having good software here will be a quality of life improvement for lawmakers the same way Git is a quality of life improvement for programmers. It will also help all other parties that want to follow the legislative process. 

I would expect that it improves the quality of the average law because it's clear to more of the people working on the law what the law actually will do. 

Could this be done by a third party? If the text of the law is public, and the voting on changes is also public information, a third party could maintain this record.

2ChristianKl10dYou get some gain from third parties but it would still like writing code and at the end of the week all programmers send their word documents full of code to their manager and then the manager puts them into the repo. Politicians frequently vote on laws where they don't really know the full effects of the law because they don't fully read it and a word document saying "we will strike paragraph XY and replace it with ZY in law A" doesn't make it clear what the law change does. Further down the road, if you would have such a system you could make a law that requires lobbyists to send their suggested law changes directly to the politician in a file that's like a pull request.

I suspect the controversial part of this would be finding an actual implementation which everyone agrees on and the funding to make it happen.

Finishing the repeal of Certificate of Need laws:

Certificate of Need (CON) laws are state regulatory mechanisms for approving major capital expenditures and projects for certain health care facilities. In a state with a CON program, a state health planning agency or other entity must review and approve projects like establishing a new health care facility or expanding a facility’s health service capacity in a specified area. CON programs primarily aim to control health care costs by restricting duplicative services and determining whether new capital expenditures meet a community need.

https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/con-certificate-of-need-state-laws.aspx

The laws intentionally stifle competition between healthcare providers, and somehow people thought this was a cost-cutting measure at one point. They're slowly being repealed but speeding that up should be pretty uncontroversial?

End Social Security and Other Defined-Benefit Pension Schemes They are intrinsically racist and sexist.

Consider two people, Alice and Bob. Alice is an Asian-American female, while Bob is an African-American male. From the point of view of Social Security, they are identical in every respect: they are the same age, they make the same contributions of the same amount on the same date, and retire at the same time. For the sake of argument, suppose they begin taking SS payments at age 70.

Given that Alice and Bob have made exactly equivalent contributions to the system, you would expect their payout to be roughly comparable. This is not even close to being the case, because of differences in life expectancy between different demographic groups. Asian-American life expectancy is 86.3 years, while for African-Americans, it is 75.0 (source) Furthermore, women enjoy about a 4 year life expectancy advantage over men. So Alice can expect to live to about 88 years, while Bob can only expect to live to about 73. That means Alice receives a 6x greater benefit from SS than Bob - 18 years of payments vs 3 years, in expectation - even though they contributed the exact same amounts.

Why would you believe that to be uncontroversial?

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I very much like this line of thinking, but I'm curious what you think are the reasons that these "uncontroversial" good laws haven't been passed yet.  Laws are somewhat similar to markets, in that they're the visible result of competing hidden desires, and to some extent the Efficient Market Hypothesis applies to politics.  If it's easy and universally beneficial, it's already done.  (note: the objections to EMH still apply, too: it can take a long time, and there's a LOT of irrationality and inefficient friction that opposes it).

Most of the proposals have some group who benefits from the "bad" current equilibrium.  And they probably care about it more than you or the politician, so their donations on their specific topic outweigh your preference on that topic.

Thanks for the question. I like the EMH metaphor. I think that the "uncontroversially good" legislative opportunities can generally be viewed as the result of some inefficiency.

You bring up the case of diffuse harm and concentrated benefits. It seems widely acknowledged that lobbyists and interest groups have too much leverage. The inefficiency is that voters can't keep track of all the small ways they're being harmed and so donations do not track welfare impacts. But, as you say, these reforms would be controversial to someone, so perhaps I could improve my language. I want a pithy way to say: "Behind closed doors, most politicians would see this as utterly reasonable and good."

While I'm on it, here are two other sources of inefficiency which I think could be relevant here:

  1. Myopia. In the US, Social Security will be insolvent in 2033. But it seems like politicians (and voters) are not that excited about tackling this one. Pandemic preparedness is another example.
  2. "Laboratories of democracy." State and local governments should probably try more things than they're selfishly incentivized to because their experience with the reforms becomes a public good that other governments can learn from and imitate.

I just want to second something you said, and provide background on how good the choice of the issue was in a larger context.

(2) Let us buy glasses: We can’t buy glasses or contact lenses if our eye prescription is over 1-2 years old. This means that every 1-2 years, glasses-wearers need to pay $200 to optometrists for the slip of paper (and stinging eyeballs). Seems like it’s probably a racket and the benefit from detecting the odd eye cancer is outweighed by the costs, although see the debate here.

This seems highly reasonable to me, but then again I didn't go to a very expensive school to get in on the relevant legalized monopoly.

There is this horrifying and/or hilarious quirk of US federal jurisprudence that when a judge applies a "rational basis test" in a court case, it means almost literally the opposite of what our community means by "rationality". They mean it more like in the sense of "rationalization".

When a law is obviously corrupt, and it is challenged for violating the guarantee of "equal protection under the law" (perhaps because the law obviously favors the corrupt cronies of the lawmakers at the expense of most normal people), modern US judges will not throw it out unless there are no conceivable rationalizations at all, ever, (even obviously low quality rationalizations) could ever hypothetically defend the law.

Basically, the rational basis test is a "cancerous gene" in our legal system at this point.  Parts of the government are pretty clearly corrupt and then to prevent the rest of the country from defending itself against their predatory extraction of wealth using state power, the broken parts of the government seem to have invented the "rational basis test" as a valid legal doctrine. 

Any time a law is challenged and that defense is the best possible defense of the law... it is good heuristic evidence (at least to me) that the law is terrible and should be deleted or fixed (or at least properly and coherently defended for its actual practical effects).

This loops back to your example! In 1955, in Williamson vs Lee Optical the lower courts threw out some particularly egregious optometry monopoly laws for violating due process and equal protection. Then the SCOTUS overturned this constitutional reasoning with the "any conceivable rationalization" test for overturning things. 

If this jurisprudential oncogene didn't exist, we already might not have this specific crazy law about optometry :-)

The rational(izable) basis test arose over time. These three posts are pretty good in showing how the general logic started out being used to allow laws in support of forced sterilization (when eugenics was popular), then to defend segregation (when that was popular), and in the 1930s to defend price fixing (when that was popular). Two of the posts mention the optometry case specifically!

The judiciary is not the maker of law. And the level of scrutinity varies. If all laws required "strict scutinity" then the law maker would be quite impotent. In this kind of setting passing laws would be pointless as people would just rely on connections to basic rights on what official acts actually are left standing (a kind of common law scheme). If you have lost representation in the law maker and don't like its doing, declaring it "corrupt" is not a valid way to circumvent it.

A jury has wide latitude to find the facts of a single case. In order to overturn a jury finding you need to establish that "no reasonable jury" could have took that finding. In similar way the law makers have wide latitude to make law and challenging that means establishing that "no resonable assembly" could pass that. There are limits to what can be passed but the primary way to hash out minor disagremeents is deliberation and voting in the law maker body. It is not proper for judges to deliberate the laws themselfs for the law makers. The check and balance is to catch and prevent what is outside their latitude. If we had too particular standards for juries there would be no real latitude for them to determine guilt but it would be mechanistically restricted by law and "jury of peers" would lose significance and then why have the jury assembled at all. In the same way the law maker needs to have some real latitude in balancing what rights and goods are desired.

We can’t buy glasses or contact lenses if our eye prescription is over 1-2 years old. 

I can go to online eyeglass sellers and put in whatever prescription info I like. It's just the actual prescription values, rather than some form approved my optometrist or something.  Is this one of those things where it's illegal but no one cares?

In Germany, if you want to buy glasses you go to a shop that sells glasses, and they actually to the measuring of what the correct prescription happens to be in the shop by a person who has not studied medicine. 

It seems like the law in the US prevents shops that sell glasses from doing that. As a result, you don't have market mechanisms that push the process of determining what glasses you need to zero in the US the same way it's done in Germany.

US companies like LensCrafters, Warby Parker, and 1-800-contacts do care, which in my experience has been prohibitive in some situations. Eg see: https://www.1800contacts.com/connect/articles/buy-contact-lenses-online-without-prescription

And the discussion here: https://ask.metafilter.com/151294/Is-there-some-way-to-get-contact-lenses-when-your-prescription-is-expired

Is it a legal requirement or something they're just being weird about? Maybe it's just about contact lenses and not eye glasses...that's what a quick skim of that metafilter thread seems to indicate? 

For what it's worth, and as far as I can remember from my last eye glasses order a couple years ago, both eyebuydirect.com and zenioptical.com just have you put in the values from your prescription and don't even ask you to pinky swear it's a recent prescription.  

Ah yes you're right, it's stricter for contacts. I was at least able to get to the purchase page on LensCrafters for a pair of glasses. (Just had to check a box where I promise the values are based on a recent prescription.) Thanks for pointing that out!

None of the answer posted yet seems uncontroversial to me, except maybe the one on price transparency.

I posted mine a day after this comment, do you still feel that way?