As a libertarian, I hear a lot about how licensing and regulation is important. “We need this for our protection,” they argue. That may be, in some cases. But in others? Hardly. Licensing and regulation have long since run beyond anything approaching reasonable.
It’s easy to say we need licensing. Doctors, someone will say, are a prime example. Licensing supposedly insures that they know what they’re doing. Contractors are another, some will argue. Heaven forbid you use an unlicensed general contractor. After all, your house could collapse.
I’m not going to get into doctors, because that discussion could take all day on its own and never quite get resolves. Contractors are another matter entirely. In Dougherty County, Georgia, getting a Contractor’s License requires an outlay of money based on what you think you’ll make and how many people you think you’ll employ. No skills test is required. No competency has to be shown. You just get the license and then start trying to get jobs.
And you know what? Houses don’t collapse in Dougherty County any more frequently than anywhere else.
The thing is, I can actually see the point of those who favor licensing on contractors. I disagree with them, but I see where they’re coming from on that. There are a myriad of other licenses that are required to perform a profession that are ridiculous.
For one, barbers and hair stylists have to be licensed in many places (are there any places that don’t require it?). Now, this may have made sense in the Middle Ages when barbers also performed surgery, but now? The absolute worst thing I can get from an unlicensed barber is a horrible hair cut. Guess what? I’ve gotten that form licensed barbers too.
Another licensed profession in many places is interior decorator. Really? I’m trying to figure out the danger here. I mean, I guess it’s possible that an unlicensed decorator may paint the walls red and lay down orange carpet, but I doubt it. Especially since the customer approves the design before any work is actually done.
It gets dumber. In Louisiana, it’s illegal to be a florist without a license. A florist. Seriously. They have to take a test and everything.
The problem with these licensing requirements is the absolute lack of risk for eliminating the licensing requirements on these things. I mean, an unlicensed florist is, at worst, going to do a bad job. Again, nothing in the licensing requirements will actually prevent that from happening. A bad florist won’t be in business long, licensed or not. That’s just how things work in the business world. The same is true of any other profession.
Somehow, governments have gotten into the business of determining who we can and can’t do business with, and this is the mechanism for doing so. How long until we have to get our grass cut by a licensed landscaper? How long until only licensed pool cleaners can be hired to fish leaves out of our pools?
Maybe it’s time we took a hard look at the idiocy of some of this regulation and licensing and figure out if it’s really necessary.