George Will

PHOENIX -- In the West, where the deer and the antelope used to play, the spirit of "leave us alone" government used to prevail. But governments of Western states are becoming more like those elsewhere, alas.

Consider the minor -- but symptomatic -- matter of the government-abetted aggression by "interior designers" against mere "decorators," or against interior designers whom other interior designers wish to demote to the status of decorators. Some designers think decorators should be a lesser breed without the law on its side.

Those categories have blurry borders. Essentially, interior designers design an entire space, sometimes including structural aspects; decorators have less comprehensive and more mundane duties -- matching colors, selecting furniture, etc.

In New Mexico, anyone can work as an interior designer. But it is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison, to list yourself on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages as, or to otherwise call yourself, an "interior designer" without being certified as such. Those who favor this censoring of truthful commercial speech are a private group that controls, using an exam administered by a private national organization, access to that title.

This is done in the name of "professionalization," but it really amounts to cartelization. Persons in the business limit access by others -- competitors -- to full participation in the business.

Being able to control the number of one's competitors, and to dispense the pleasure of status, is nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you have a legislature willing to enact "titling laws." They regulate -- meaning restrict -- the use of job descriptions. Such laws often are precursors of occupational licensing, which usually means a mandatory credentialing process to control entry into a profession with a particular title.

In Nevada, such regulation has arrived. So in Las Vegas, where almost nothing is illegal, it is illegal -- unless you are licensed, or employed by someone licensed -- to move, in the role of an interior designer, any piece of furniture, such as an armoire, more than 69 inches tall. A Nevada bureaucrat says that "placement of furniture" is an aspect of "space planning" and therefore is regulated -- restricted to a "registered interior designer."


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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