Licensing Lunacy

The state of Kentucky used occupational licensing laws to shut down an advice columnist, according to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

"Was Dear Abby a career criminal? Can 'The Dr. Oz Show' show be censored? Absolutely — at least according to the Kentucky attorney general and the state's Board of Examiners of Psychology, which just banned one of the most popular advice columns in the United States from all of Kentucky's newspapers," wrote Paul Sherman and Jeff Rowe, attorneys with the Institute for Justice, who are representing the columnist.

The case involves John Rosemond, a licensed family psychologist from North Carolina, who writes a syndicated advice column. Sherman and Rowe continue:

In February, Mr. Rosemond wrote a column responding to a question from parents about their 17-year-old son, whom they described as a 'highly spoiled underachiever.' Mr. Rosemond, who believes that children need clear boundaries and discipline, wrote that their son was in 'dire need of a major wake-up call' and advised that they suspend his privileges until he shapes up.

The day after Mr. Rosemond's column ran in the Lexington Herald-Leader, a retired Kentucky psychologist contacted the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology to complain. Astonishingly, the Kentucky attorney general and the board sent Mr. Rosemond a letter ordering him to stop publishing his column in the state.

The state holds that this type of advice merits a license from Kentucky. The article reports on similar action happening in other states.

Along with a host of other licensing mandates, Michigan also requires state-mandated education, hours and fees for jobs that center around giving advice. Recently, a state report recommended deregulating the licensing of dieticians and nutritionists and a bill in the Legislature is pending.

In 1950, about 5 percent of occupations were required to be licensed; today, it's about 33 percent. Last year, the Institute for Justice published a report titled, "License to Work," which looks at the issue nationwide and had state-by-state comparisons.

Michigan was rated among the worst in the country. And while the state policy fights regarding business often centers on the issue of the level of taxation (which is important), when asked, entrepreneurs point to regulations as their biggest challenge.

IJ has a list of three questions policy makers should ask when discussing a license:

  • Is an occupation unlicensed in other states?
  • Are the licensure burdens for an occupation high compared to other states?
  • Are the licensure burdens for an occupation high compared to other occupations with greater safety risks?

Many of the mandates in Michigan simply add time and expense for people who simply want to work, with no better safety outcomes. Going forward, legislators should look to the past to consider cleaning up the books.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.