Rules for fools
The terrible threat of unlicensed interior designers
May 12th 2011 | from the print edition
IN 1941 Franklin Roosevelt added two new items to America’s ancestral freedoms of speech and worship: freedom from fear and freedom from want. Today’s politicians offer a far more generous menu: freedom from unlicensed hair-cutters, freedom from cowboy flower-arrangers and, most important of all, freedom from rogue interior designers. What is the point of enjoying freedom from fear or want, after all, if you cannot enjoy freedom from poorly co-ordinated colour schemes?
In the 1950s, when organisation man ruled, fewer than 5% of American workers needed licences. Today, after three decades of deregulation, the figure is almost 30%. Add to that people who are preparing to obtain a licence or whose jobs involve some form of certification and the share is 38%. Other rich countries impose far fewer fetters than the land of the free. In Britain only 13% of workers need licences (though that has doubled in 12 years).
Some occupations clearly need to be licensed. Nobody wants to unleash amateur doctors and dentists on the public, or untrained tattoo artists for that matter. But, as the Wall Street Journal has doggedly pointed out, America’s Licence Raj has extended its tentacles into occupations that pose no plausible threat to health or safety—occupations, moreover, that are governed by considerations of taste rather than anything that can be objectively measured by licensing authorities. The list of jobs that require licences in some states already sounds like something from Monty Python—florists, handymen, wrestlers, tour guides, frozen-dessert sellers, firework operatives, second-hand booksellers and, of course, interior designers—but it will become sillier still if ambitious cat-groomers and dog-walkers get their way.
Getting a licence can be time-consuming. Want to become a barber in California? That will require studying the art of cutting and blow-drying for almost a year. Want to work in the wig trade in Texas? You will need to take 300 hours of classes and pass both written and practical exams. Alabama obliges manicurists to sit through 750 hours of instruction before taking a practical exam. Florida will not let you work as an interior designer unless you complete a four-year university degree and a two-year apprenticeship and pass a two-day examination.
America’s Licence Raj crushes would-be entrepreneurs. Consider three people who come from very different states and occupations. Jestina Clayton is an African hair-braider with 23 years of experience. But the Utah Barber, Cosmetologist/Barber, Esthetician, Electrologist and Nail Technician Licensing Board told her that she cannot practise her craft unless she first obtains a licence—which means spending up to $18,000 on 2,000 hours of study, none of it devoted to African hair-braid
美国的牌照制度打击了想要创业的人。以三个不同职业和来自不同国家的人为例. Jestina Clayton是一名理发师并且有23年的从业经验. 但是犹他州理发师,美容师, 电蚀医师和专业美甲师认证机构都告诉她说除非她首先获取一个许可证,不然她不能实践她的手艺——这意味着她需要花费18，000美元去学习2，000小时的课程，这些课程中没有任何内容是与非洲头发编制有关系的。
Justin Brown is an abbot at a Benedictine abbey that supplements its meagre income by making and selling simple wooden coffins. But the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors has ordered him to “cease and desist”. Heaven knows what harm a corpse might suffer from an unlicensed coffin. Barbara Vanderkolk Gardner runs a flourishing interior-design business in New Jersey. But when she tried to expand into Florida, the state’s Board of Architecture and Interior Design ordered her to delete all references to “interior design” from her website and stop offering “interior design services” in the Sunshine State.
Justin Brown是本笃会修道院的一名修士,他依靠制造和买简单的木棺材来补贴他那微薄的收入.但是路易斯安那州董事会的尸体防腐和丧礼董事命令他“停止”这种做法。或许只有上帝才知道一个没有许可证的棺材能给一具尸体带来什么害处。Barbara Vanderkolk Gardner在新泽西州经营着一项兴旺的室内设计业务，但当她想把生意扩大到佛罗里达州的时候，该州的建筑与室内设计董事会命令她删除她网页上关于“室内设计”的内容并且停止在该阳光之州提供“室内设计服务”。
The cost of all this pettifoggery is huge—unless, that is, you are a member of one of the cartels that pushes for pettifogging rules or an employee of one of the bureaucratic bodies charged with enforcing them. Morris Kleiner of the University of Minnesota calculates that licensing boosts the income of licensees by about 15%. In other words, it has about the same impact on wages as membership of a trade union does. (Trade unionists who are also protected by licences enjoy a 24% boost to their hourly wages.) Mr Kleiner also argues that licensing slows job-creation: by comparing occupations that are regulated in some states but not in others he found that job growth between 1990 and 2000 was 20% higher in unregulated occupations than in regulated ones.
所有这些欺瞒要付的代价都是很大的——除非你是推行这些荒唐条例的其中一个联合企业的成员或是某一官僚机构中负责执行这些条例的人。明尼苏达大学的Morris Kleiner估计得到许可证授权的人的收入可以提高15%。也就是说，许可证对工会成员的工资也有相同的影响（工会成员因有许可证的保护，他们每小时的工资要高出24%）. Kleiner先生也认为牌照监管减缓了就业机会的创造：通过把一些在某些州受到监管而在其它州没有受到监管的职业进行比较，他发现在1990年到2000年间，同样的职业不受监管的州比在受监管的州的就业增长要高出20%。
The Institute for Justice, a free-market pressure group, argues that this is only the beginning of the Raj’s sins. The patchwork of regulations makes it hard for people to move from state to state. The burden of regulations falls most heavily on ethnic minorities (who are less likely to have educational qualifications) and on women (who might want to return to work after raising their children). States that demand that funeral directors must also qualify as embalmers, for example, have 24% fewer female funeral directors than those that don’t.
维护自由市场的压力集团美国司法部指出，这只是牌照制度弊端的开始。美国零散的法规使人们很难从一个州搬到另外一个州.这些法规的负担大多数落到少数族裔 (他们更缺少学历)和妇女(她们生完小孩后可能想回去工作) 身上.例如,在那些要求殡仪员也必须取得尸体防腐资格的州,这些州的女性殡仪员要比没有这种要求的州少24%.
Uncle Sam will save you from bad feng shui
You might imagine that Americans would be up in arms about all this. After all, the Licence Raj embodies the two things that Americans are supposed to be furious about: the rise of big government and the stalling of America’s job-creating machine. You would be wrong. Florida’s legislature recently debated a bill to remove licensing requirements from 20 occupations, including hair-braiding, interior design and teaching ballroom-dancing. For a while it looked as if the bill would sail through: Florida has been a centre of tea-party agitation and both chambers have Republican majorities. But the people who care most about this issue—the cartels of incumbents—lobbied the loudest. One predicted that unlicensed designers would use fabrics that might spread disease and cause 88,000 deaths a year. Another suggested, even more alarmingly, that clashing colour schemes might adversely affect “salivation”. In the early hours of May 7th the bill was defeated. If Republican majorities cannot pluck up the courage to challenge a cartel of interior designers when Florida’s unemployment rate is more than 10%, what hope has America? The Licence Raj may be here to stay.