Rent-Seeking vs. Freedom of Speech

Monday, November 23, 2015

A case of occupational licensing laws interfering with freedom of speech -- a problem I have noted here before -- may make it to the Supreme Court. George Will notes that the high court will decide on Tuesday whether to hear the case, which concerns a retired veterinarian who gives advice over the Internet:

Dr. Ron Hines, 72, of Brownsville, is a licensed veterinarian with a PhD in microbiology. He is physically disabled but eager to continue dispensing his healing wisdom worldwide, which he does using the Internet and telephone. He estimates that about 5 percent of those he speaks to are in Texas. He neither dispenses nor prescribes medications. But in 2005, the Texas legislature, with time on its hands and nothing better to do to perfect the state, criminalized such electronic veterinary advice.

Students of contemporary government will instantly understand that this was not done to protect pets, none of whom has complained about, or been reported injured by, people like Hines. Rather, the legislature acted to protect those veterinarians who were vocally peeved because potential customers were getting online advice that, even when not free, is acquired at less expense and more conveniently than that gained from visits to a veterinarian's office.

This is rent-seeking, the use of public power to confer private benefits on one economic interest by handicapping another interest... [links in original]
I hasten to add that, even if such a law really were intended to protect pets, it would be improper, because it violates the individual rights of human beings. Will notes that Hines has the Institute for Justice in his corner, and likens the Institute to the Rangers of Texas lore. I thank the Good Guys and wish them luck.

-- CAV

No comments: