John Stossel

The list of business activities that government insists on licensing, supposedly for our sake, includes hair braiders in Mississippi, wooden-casket makers and florists in Louisiana and even yoga instructors in Virginia.

Established businesses always try to use government to handcuff competition. When margarine was first developed, the dairy industry got Wisconsin legislators to pass a law making margarine illegal. Several states ruled that margarine was "deceptive," since it might be mistaken for butter. Some required a bright pink dye be added to make margarine look different. An "oleomargarine bootlegger" was thrown in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth.

When supermarkets were invented, small grocers tried to ban them. "A&P will dominate the grocery business and destroy Main Street," the grocers claimed. Minnesota legislators responded by passing a law that forbade supermarkets to put food "on sale."

Established capitalists are often capitalism's biggest enemies.

I used to believe that licensing doctors and lawyers protected consumers, but now I realize that licensing is always an expensive restraint of trade. It certainly hasn't barred quacks and shysters.

Licensing is unnecessary. It creates a false sense of security, raises costs, stifles innovation and takes away consumer choice.

I don't deny that there is fraud in business. I won Emmys for exposing it. Fraud is one of three crimes that must be policed and punished for the market to function (theft and physical assault are the others). Once that's done, however, as long as there is open competition, honesty pretty much takes care of itself.

Free competition -- the striving for a good reputation -- protects consumers better than government ever will.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate