Us Making Work for Bureaucrats, Part II

Below I have a posting about the FCC’s Emergency Action Notification System and plans to expand and complicate it — at taxpayer’s expense.

In Part II, I want to comment on a Wall Street Journal article (subscription may be required) about small businesspeople wanting to create bureaucracies to stifle competition.

cat groomers, tattoo artists, tree trimmers and about a dozen other specialists across the country… are clamoring for more rules governing small businesses.

Economists say, and I agree,

But economists—and workers shut out of fields by educational requirements or difficult exams—say licensing mostly serves as a form of protectionism, allowing veterans of the trade to box out competitors who might undercut them on price or offer new services.
“Occupations prefer to be licensed because they can restrict competition and obtain higher wages,” said Morris Kleiner, a labor professor at the University of Minnesota. “If you go to any statehouse, you’ll see a line of occupations out the door wanting to be licensed.”

Just ordered some of these today.
In Kansas, florists do not need a license.

Want to know how bad it has become?
 The most recent study, from 2008, found 23% of U.S. workers were required to obtain state licenses, up from just 5% in 1950, according to data from Mr. Kleiner. In the mid-1980s, about 800 professions were licensed in at least one state. Today, at least 1,100 are, according to the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation, a trade group for regulatory bodies. Among the professions licensed by one or more states: florists, interior designers, private detectives, hearing-aid fitters, conveyor-belt operators and retailers of frozen desserts.

Florists? Interior designers? Frozen dessert retailers?

You probably are thinking, “Yes, but doctors and engineers and others do things that are important to health and safety.” I agree. But, lest you doubt that licensing isn’t about keeping out competition, consider this story from North Carolina from February 3rd:

RALEIGH — David N. Cox says he was merely exercising his right to petition the government, but a state Department of Transportation official has raised allegations that Cox committed a misdemeanor: practicing engineering without a license.

Cox and his North Raleigh neighbors are lobbying city and state officials to add traffic signals at two intersections as part of a planned widening of Falls of Neuse Road.
After an engineering consultant hired by the city said that the signals were not needed, Cox and the North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners’ Associations responded with a sophisticated analysis of their own.
The eight-page document with maps, diagrams and traffic projections was offered to buttress their contention that signals will be needed at the Falls of Neuse at Coolmore Drive intersection and where the road meets Tabriz Point / Lake Villa Way.
It did not persuade Kevin Lacy, chief traffic engineer for the state DOT, to change his mind about the project. Instead, Lacy called on a state licensing agency, the N.C. Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors, to investigate Cox.

“Engineering without a license” is a misdemeanor in North Carolina. While I doubt he will be convicted (the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to petition the government for redress), he will have to spend money to hire an attorney, take time off from work, etc.

So, we can’t entirely blame the bureaucrats. When some of us tell them we want more bureaucracy, they listen.

For the record, meteorologists are not required to be licensed in any state.

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