FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) recently published an article about an entrepreneur fighting back against a State Board of technical professions which has attempted to fine him $1000 and ordered him to cease and desist from making maps and plans for people without a surveyor’s license.
This type of action is common in every State to some degree. It is something I live with every day. Not just is engineering a highly regulated profession, but there are many other licenses than just a “Professional Engineer” that can be required to do various types of work. For example, many States require that you be licensed (or registered – usually synonymous with licensed) to be a Professional Geologist. Or to do remediation of petroleum-contaminated soil, or remove above-ground and underground storage tanks for petroleum projects. Surveying is considered a separate profession from engineering – and there is some logic to that. But States vary significantly over where the line is between the two closely related professions. Ditto for the practice of engineering versus the practice of architecture. And there are many kinds of architecture! Just as there are with engineering.
But these sorts of technical professions are FAR from the total picture when it comes to government registration and licensing – not just at the State level but in local government and even tribal government. Here are a few examples:
- Biological assessors – the Navajo Nation requires registration for this profession to do work
- Archeologists – various federal and State agencies (and some local ones) require that archeologists be registered and certified in order to do such simple things as do “pedestrian surveys” – walking a site to see if there is evidence of historical and prehistoric activities.
- General contractors, often including handymen and carpenters
- Plumbers, electricians, and sometimes heating installers/repairers
- Demolition contractors as being different from general contractors
But it is more than that. Many States license:
- Barbers (to cut men’s hair)
- Beauticians (to cut women’s hair and do other things with it)
- Manicurists (apparently for both men and women)
- Funeral directors and operators of cemeteries and crematoriums
- And many, many more (varying state by state)
- Just in the medical field, consider California’s licensing requirements:
- Behavioral Sciences
- Chiropractic Examiners
- Dental Hygiene
- Medical Cannabis
- Naturopathic Medicine
- Occupational Therapy
- Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons
- Physical Therapy
- Physician Assistant
- Podiatric Medicine
- Registered Nursing
- Respiratory Care Practitioners
- Speech-Language Pathology Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers
- Vocational Nurse and Psychiatric Technicians
- Medical Provider Network (MPN)
- Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME)
Why? The excuse ALWAYS given is to “protect the public” from unqualified practitioners of these various skills. To protect the public’s health, the public’s pocketbook, and the public’s future (or not).
Sometimes, as in the case of traffic control flaggers in some States, it requires as little as four hours class and passing a multiple-choice test – admittedly administered by a State-certified instructor/tester. In the case of medical professions, it requires a decade or more of training, testing, internship, etc. For engineers, architects, and surveyors, it generally requires 4 years of an accredited university degree, followed by passing two very long written examinations and 4-6 years of internship as an “engineer-in-training.”
Most also require continuing education – anywhere from 8 hours per year to 40+ hours every two years. Why? To “protect the public.”
But knowing the track record of government in general, we have strong reason to doubt this. Government is generally unsuccessful in protecting people from physical “malum in se” crimes like, oh, robbery, murder, rape, and such. Much less crimes which are “malum prohibitum. Like violations of SEC regulations, speed limits, and such crimes. History shows that many of these licensed professionals still are able to harm people and do other damage, yet receive no serious punishment. Much less that such things are prevented. Why? In large part because government is itself incompetent.
Which is why many of us believe that the real reason is to prevent competition. As seems to be the case in California with this poor guy and his company making maps for people to use for their businesses or homeowner activities. In other words, government colludes with and enforces restrictions on competition of established “legal” licensed professionals. The cost of getting certified or licensed makes it difficult for people and companies to compete against existing organizations.
That is not, of course, the only reason: it also greatly increases government control – as we have seen in recent months with the COVID-19 vaccine fuss-and-feathers. Someone who says something that the government(s) disagree with can be punished, if not by actually losing their license to practice their profession, then by the incredible cost of defending their license against lawyers: especially government lawyers.
Does any of this sound familiar? Of course, for the same thing applies to schools, to keeping and bearing firearms, and other restrictions on freedom. Including such things as marriage licensing.
And those are also based on the idea that people are inherently stupid and incapable of making their own decisions. The antithesis of liberty.