Castles In The Sky -- Lines In The Sand

"Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers should enjoy their freedom while it lasts. These lucky professions have so far managed to stay off the list of livelihoods that now require a license to practice in any number of states. Taxidermists, massage therapists and interior decorators aren't so fortunate: They're among the professionals who must have their skills validated by the government.

"Overall, the level of licensing regulation in the workplace is rising precipitously, with more than 20% of the workforce now required to get a permit to do their jobs -- up from 4.5% in the 1950s...

"With a total of more than 1,000 occupations now controlling entry… some professional licensing may be a defensive outgrowth of the lawsuit culture, as business owners seek protection against, say, customers irate over how their haircuts turned out. But most is pushed by businesses for the age-old reason of restricting competition...

"But even as one silly new credential is erected, others are being challenged. One Californian is suing the state for requiring him to spend two years studying to get a license to install spikes that deter pigeons from nesting. This, despite the fact that the plaintiff is already the holder of five state pest-control licenses. His case went before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last month, where the government's own witnesses acknowledged that the law is irrational and intended to make it harder for new competitors to qualify...

"The government's role in protecting the public from fraud may argue in favor of licensing in some very specialized, learned professions. A doctor or lawyer clearly needs a certified level of expertise. But even these professions sometimes attempt to create their own guild monopolies, such as when lawyers lobby to bar non-lawyers from assisting the public with such routine legal tasks as writing wills. It's even harder to see public benefit when similar rigorous oversight is applied to people who want to catch a reptile in Michigan, serve as a tribal rainmaker in Arizona, or be a fortune-teller in Maryland. That's right; it takes a license to predict the future in Baltimore, which we doubt leads to a better forecasting record."

(“Licensed to Kill.” Wall Street Journal: September 10, 2007. pg. A.14)

THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION has been sitting on the shelf, patiently waiting for the opportune moment: “Somebody is always going to try and game the system. That is… a general issue, whether it is in religion, the private sector or the public sector.” -- So what's your threshold?

(Sandy Weill, former chairman and CEO of Citigroup, in “Wisdom From Weill,” Chief Executive. New York: Jan/Feb 2007., Iss. 223; pg. 10)

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