The liberal/statist/progressive faith in government never ceases to amaze me.
When they broach a subject they don’t understand, the immediate assumption is “without government, we’d all be screwed.”
So today I was being lectured by a self-proclaimed “progressive” on how free-markets and libertarianism can not work. In a ballsy moved, he went for the industry I work and love and he has no experience in, building contracting. The premise, without government building regulations and codes, no building would be fit to live and work in. All the greedy contractors would skimp and there would be no way limit to the amount of money they could make. I love the ignorance. But why such faith that government is needed to ensure quality? Why is government needed to limit the profits of contractors?
In reality, there are relatively few government regulations that dictate how a building is suppose to be built. Those that do exist relate with fire and safety devices. In the world of contracting, reputation is of paramount importance. It only takes one poor performance to ruin you. These guys will lose a lot of money instead of pulling off a job or cutting corners because they know it will be their last. I have seen it happen.
How do we keep profits down? Building contracting is an extremely competitive business. When a job is bidding, I typically see 20-30 general contractors vying for the work. Double that in lower tier contractors. These guys estimate the cost and try to make 3-5%. If they missed something, which is typically how you become the low bidder, they have to eat it (see above). This business is low margin and high risk.
So what standards are these contractors being held to? The individual or business group who wants the building built hires an architect to lay out plans and specifications for the building. The architect will hire consulting engineering firms to design and write specifications for specific trades. Standards of workmanship are written into the specification. These standards are not government regulations but generated by trade organizations. Therefore they are not forced upon the end user. The owner is free to weigh cost/benefit factors to decide which level of building performance will meet their needs. Government likes “one-size fits all solutions” which are generally not practical in real life and will not meet each individual need. The architects and consulting engineering firms stay involved throughout the building process to ensure the intent of their specifications are being met.
But if you still don’t completely trust the contractor, architect, and consulting engineers you hired, you still can make sure you are getting the building you want by hiring a third-party commissioning agent (CxA). After construction the CxA will go through every nook and cranny and test every system to verify things are the way they should be.
We get quality buildings do to free-markets and choice, not do to government.