The safety of restricted choices

Thank goodness Vermont is looking out for us, the dim-bulb citizens. The state maintains a bureaucracy to license all kinds of professions, requiring applications, tests, fees, continuing education, and other compliance measures.

And of course, these licensing requirements provide professional associations – doctors, accountants, nurses… you name it – with the opportunity to tilt the playing field to their advantage.

They do this by lobbying the legislature or the rule-writers to make sure the licensing requirements fit their organization’s preferences. This restricts entry into the field by requiring that anyone calling themselves a dietician, an auctioneer, a funeral director, or a midwife (or a couple dozen other professions) has had a certain amount of schooling, a certain amount of experience, and does their job a certain way. They also make it illegal for others to do some of their work; for example, doctors lobby to make sure nurses and nurse practitioners can’t do certain things, so that only doctors can, thus restricting alternatives that would cost less.

In other words, licensing requirements inflate prices and restrict choice.

As with most government bureaucracies that are charged with “protecting” the public from having too many choices, the state’s licensing agency, the Office of Professional Review (OPR), is unimpressed with our collective intelligence. Check out the last part of the following quote from their website (in italics):

“The mission of OPR is public protection from incompetent or unethical practitioners through a system of licensure… When professions are regulated, competency is assured. OPR accomplishes this through licensing boards and advisors by ensuring that applicants are qualified, complaints of unprofessional conduct are investigated and prosecuted, and standards of practice are well defined. This further safeguards the public who may lack a basis for judging what constitutes acceptable quality in service or conduct.”

Apparently, we’d never think to ask around, check references, and do any research about whether a professional is competent. If you really think about it, does anyone ever check to find out if their barber is licensed by the state? Or their doctor, for that matter? Of course not; we ask friends and neighbors. Or, if you want to go high-tech, you check any of a dozen websites devoted to weeding out quacks and frauds in any profession.

Below is a list of professions the OPR licenses, in case you’re wondering. Vermont won’t let anyone nasty get into any of these professions, so you can turn off your critical thinking skills when it comes to these. After all, we’ve never heard of a state-licensed professional doing anything wrong, right?

  • Accountancy
  • Accupuncture
  • Architecture
  • Athletic trainer
  • Auctioneer
  • Barber/cosmetology
  • Boxing
  • Chiropractor
  • Crematory establishment
  • Dental
  • Dietician
  • Electrolysis
  • Engineer
  • Funeral service
  • Hearing aid dispenser
  • Land surveyor
  • Landscape architects
  • Marriage/Family therapy
  • Mental health counselor
  • Midwife
  • Motor vehicle racing
  • Naturopath
  • Nursing
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Occupational therapy
  • Opticians
  • Optometry
  • Osteopathy
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical therapy
  • Private investigative/security
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Psychology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Radiologic technology
  • Real estate appraiser
  • Real estate broker/salesperson
  • Respiratory care practitioner
  • Social worker
  • Tattooists/body piercers
  • Veterinary
  • Attorneys
  • Drug/Alcohol counselors
  • Educators
  • Insurance agents/brokers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Polygraph examiners
  • Well drillers
  • Physicians
  • Physicians assistants
  • Podiatrists
  • Speech pathologist
  • Audiologist

About Jamal Kheiry

Public relations consultant with experience in domestic and international journalism and public relations. At it since 1995.
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