Zoning, occupational licensing, and immigration are all the same problem, just in different forms. They all reduce individuals' ability to move to the places with the greatest opportunity, and a few concentrated interests are overrepresented, trouncing the broader social interest.

  • In the case of zoning, NIMBYs constrain the potential of a neighborhood or region for the sake of their own stability, comfort, and home values. Future residents are not represented in these decisions but do bear the externalities of their outcomes.
  • In the case of licensing, professional societies act as gatekeepers to hold down the supply so that it can't fully meet demand.
  • In the case of immigration, workers threaten by an influx of low-wage competition and people uncomfortable with cultural mixing restrict access to opportunity to immigrants whose welfare would be massively improved if the restrictions were lifted.

To be clear, in each case it's not just a question of benefits to that individual who wants to participate but is currently barred from doing so. They'd also be able to contribute more to the rest of society.

It’s all a big cooperation problem, an issue of local interests overwhelming global welfare.