Your Bureaucratically-Assigned Lot in Life

Monday, July 29, 2013

Columnist A. Barton Hinkle discusses a subject that has come up here before: licensing laws as violations of freedom of speech. This time, it is a syndicated psychology columnist who has run afoul of bureaucrats in Kentucky. But, as they used to say in more free-wheeling days, that's not all!

Within the column, the following eye-opening side note reveals something only a little less disturbing: the astonishing (and growing) degree of control that the government exerts over our livelihoods through licensing.

Nationwide, more than 100 occupations are licensed by some or all of the 50 states; roughly a third of Americans hold jobs that need a government license, up from 5 percent a half-century ago. [bold added]
This kind of government control reminds me of a couple of things Ayn Rand had to say.

First, there are her comments on guild socialism:
The particular form of economic organization, which is becoming more and more apparent in this country, as an outgrowth of the power of pressure groups, is one of the worst variants of statism: guild socialism. Guild socialism robs the talented young of their future--by freezing men into professional castes under rigid rules. It represents an open embodiment of the basic motive of most statists, though they usually prefer not to confess it: the entrenchment and protection of mediocrity from abler competitors, the shackling of the men of superior ability down to the mean average of their professions. That theory is not too popular among socialists (though it has its advocates)--but the most famous instance of its large-scale practice was Fascist Italy.
Certainly, if -- as Hinkle points out -- one can face criminal charges for saying something that is completely true (among other things), this is an arrangement taylor-made to hold down the best.

Second, since there is little practical difference between government ownership of the means of production and government control of the same, I am also reminded of something Ayn Rand said about what losing a job meant during the Great Depression:
In these United States of ours, we working women may fear we will lose our jobs. That is one fear we all have, to some degree at any rate. But when the job is gone, we don't feel at the end of our resources. We still can go out and get another. I know this well, for in my first years in this country I worked as a waitress, as a saleswoman from door to door, as an assistant wardrobe women in Hollywood, as a scenario writer, as a worker at a bewildering number of jobs. And when fired, I always landed somewhere else, eventually.

But in Russia the terrific fear of the young girl worker is the fear of losing her job. Once it is gone, it is almost impossible for her to get another job, since under the collectivist state, the government is the only employer. And if the government has discharged you, it is rather unreasonable to expect the same boss to take you back again. The same boss seldom does. [bold added]
Official unemployment figures, which grossly undercount the unemployed by such means as leaving out those who do not apply for government "benefits", have been hovering around ten percent nationally for some time. While the situation is hardly identical to that in Soviet Russia, licensing undoubtedly does prevent many individuals from, say, attempting to enter new professions or innovating within their old professions to achieve a competitive advantage. With one third of Americans needing bureaucratic approval to work, I can't help but wonder how many people are hindered in their job searches by licensing requirements, in one way or another.

-- CAV


Today: (1) Removed "not" before "leaving". (2) Added a hyperlink. 

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