Sherman points out that licensing rules keep getting more intrusive: "Fifty years ago, only 5 percent of the American population needed a license from government to work in their chosen occupation. Now that number is 30 percent."
Often licensing is imposed because established businesses want to protect their incomes.
"The story that we see again and again is that the industry itself is the one who's calling for regulation," Sherman said. "It's not that the public is afraid that people like Steve are giving dietary advice. It's dietitians (who) don't want Steve competing with them."
Sherman says North Carolina is about average in terms of unnecessary regulations. It takes $120 in fees and 250 days of classes -- a total of two years -- to be able to cut hair legally. It takes three years to become a landscape contractor. Such rules are a reason unemployment stays high.
And there's no proof that the rules make us safer. "A dozen states don't have any licensure requirements for nutritionists," said Sherman. "Are people in those states more in danger than people in North Carolina?"
I supported occupational licensing when I was a young consumer reporter. But now I've wised up. Now I see that it doesn't protect consumers. Competition and reputation are better protection. When you move to a new community, do you choose new dentists or mechanics by checking their licenses? No. You ask neighbors or colleagues for recommendations, or check Consumer Reports and Angie's List. You check because you know that even with licensing laws, there is quackery.
Licensing creates a false sense of security, raises costs, stifles innovation, takes away consumer choice and interferes with the right to earn a living.
And now I see another reason to object to it. It collides with freedom of speech.
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