Terry’s travels threw off his blog-writing last week. He is sorry and wishes you could have been with him. Well, maybe not everybody. Just that person who sent the great pic. Whew.
We all hear regularly about the crony capitalists who make the headlines–Solyndra, GM, and all the other large companies that get subsidies and other favors from the government. What we don’t hear about are the millions of tiny cronies roaming the economy.
There are two ways to compete in business. The first is to provide something to others that is cheaper, faster, better, or prettier than your competitors. This represents true free-market capitalism, wherein the consumer gets to choose who wins and who loses in the marketplace. For those who think “capitalism” has failed, think again. The US has never known this ideal completely.
The other way is to prevent others from competing with you. In a free market, this can only be accomplished by legitimate means–say, a valid patent or a secret recipe. In a mixed economy such as ours, there are more nefarious ways, all of which involve the use of force.
For example, if I want to cut hair in Illinois, I have to obtain 1500 hours of training. Not having had hair for some years now, I was prompted to think back to whether that made sense given the skill required to cut mine back then. Nope. Can’t say it did. Maybe that’s just me. If I try to cut yours, I am in for a fine or a jail sentence.
They let me fly an airplane by myself with 40 hours of training. Granted, I could not charge for flying anyone, but even then the total requirement was well short of 1500. The real issue though, is not whether 1500 is too much for a barber, but why it is required at all.
If I come to you and say, “I hear you can cure warts with fairy dust” and pay you for the service, you and I have contracted freely. Why should anyone care? No fraud is involved. The “goods” are delivered as promised. Any dufus who believes in fairy dust receives exactly what he pays for.
Likewise, if I can cut hair and you trust me to do that for you, there is no reason for the state to say anything at all. As long as I do not misrepresent my credentials, you are getting exactly what you paid for. Any dufus that lets me cut his hair should go see my cousin about curing his warts.
So why is credentialing so rampant? It is said to be for the good of consumers, but I have my doubts. Licensing requirements do more to protect established practitioners of a trade than the consumers who do business with them. By lobbying legislators to prevent others from competing, professional service providers are able to make a profit through force–you and I are forced to go to an “approved” provider.
How many more people could earn a decent income were they not burdened by time-consuming and expensive licensing requirements? From the guy who opines on diet to the horse masseuse in Nebraska, free exercise of economic rights is under assault everywhere.
More disturbing than the silliness this all exemplifies are the cultural norms that come with it. Rather than priding ourselves on our excellence, we prevent others from doing same. Rather than asking how to do things better, we block others from doing it at all. No amount of badgering legislators will change a thing until the people at large regain their sense of self-efficacy and pride. When it is unthinkable to ask another to refrain from competing with us freely, we will not need to seek political favors to secure our livelihoods. We will reach down deep to find the best within us to provide value to others. And we will be better people for it.