The issue of licensing of “professionals” has com has come up in the current Hawaii legislative session. The estimable blogger and activist Larry Geller is advocating for the defeat of proposed legislation that would do away with professional licensing for several professions. By extension, the respective state licensing boards would cease to exist — with the aim of consequently eliminating the budgeting for these publicly-funded boards (i.e. reduce state spending).
I have no doubt that Larry has good intentions in sounding a cautionary note as to why these licensing processes should continue. I can also empathize with Larry’s particular regard for marriage and family therapists losing professional certification — and with it the ability to bill “third party” (insurance companies and such) for their services — while counselors bearing the title “psychologist” retain the ability to be compensated by third parties.
Still, equating professional licensing — certification — of such professionals, with “consumer protection” takes on a certain mendacious odor that I think merits further scrutiny.
The standard line touting the supposed consumer protection of such licensing, and the dangers lurking in the removal of it, goes something like, “such laws reduce unethical behavior so that when a consumer complains, there is recourse such as license revocation.”
You screw up? Bam! You get your license yanked and another evil is put down by the state licensing board.
Are you reassured?
I’m not sure if I am.
Well, I think that the state (or nation for that matter) “protecting” me has a little more to it than the rhetoric that is perpetuated. (Did you ever consider that in our consumer culture the primary goal of our education system just might be training for consumption? Do you think?)
The guy or gal flying airliners?
The folks removing faulty gall bladders?
I absolutely want them to have to qualify for a regulated license. Throw in drivers navigating 4-way stops on the roadways too! (Some are still gonna practice that friendly little Hawaiian driver predilection to politely wave you into oncoming traffic. Can you say deadly aloha?)
What I’m referring to are “professions” more like those singled out in said legislation: barbers, cosmetologists, hearing aid dealers and fitters, electrologists, and marriage and family therapists.
You know why?
Because this “consumer protection” has for some time now, overstepped itself to the extent that what has been given up is the freedom to practice community based competences. (Or substitute “national security” decimating community freedom and peaceful cooperation; something for another blog post however.)
“Ya. But what about when some freewheeling barber up and cuts off my ear?!”
“Or that unscrupulous therapist makes a pass at my estranged wife?!”
Well folks… what enters into the equation here is personal responsibility. You and your community must have it together enough to cultivate the sensibility to recognize competence, in doing or making things that people have traditionally done without licenses.
Some of our commodities and services are technical innovations — not as traditional as cutting hair or counseling troubled marriage partners. But whether traditional or of more recent technology, professional certification strikes me as mostly a racket for cartels that unfairly discriminate, frustrate, and disable us in providing for ourselves a sustainable (which means, among other things: austere) and healthy livelihood.
A case in point: Although I’ve worn the same nearsighted correction of eyeglasses for some twenty years, I can’t just go and get a replacement pair — not unless I fork over a hundred bucks or so to a professional who then issues me a prescription.
This is consumer protection? Protecting me from what?
Give me a friggen’ break! Am I really a danger to myself and others through an inability to see when my glasses don’t work right? Does it follow that if my car’s headlights are all screwy, that I must also pay a professional a hundred smackers to adjust my headlights? (As opticians are not in this legislation perhaps I’m slipping off topic.)
And yet, the observation — that we as a community need to recognize when consumer protection is more of a mask worn by those bent on expropriating our ability to satisfy our needs — through our competence, and in sustainable ways — seems clear enough.
Mahalo to Larry Geller for his vigilance in covering Hawaiian legislative issues so competently; and for shining a light on such a watershed issue. Larry seems an adherent to very worthwhile progressive causes. Nonetheless, some of us living rural subsistence lives perhaps have leanings of a more libertarian nature. And yet, finding common ground among the myriad of issues would seem to further truly community based participatory politics.