Business: Folding the Featherbeds

One big reason why houses cost so much is that the output per man-hour of carpenters, bricklayers, masons, painters, et al. is skimpy in proportion to the $2-to-$5-an-hour wages they draw. Restrictions designed to spread work and keep output low are written into thousands of building-trades contracts. Most painters insist on using brushes where sprayers would do the job a lot faster. Carpenters resist prefabricated panels, and in some places panels fastened together at the factory are actually taken apart at the building site and nailed together again. Some locals lay down a maximum daily quota of bricks, studs or square...

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