Written by: Sisem
Professional licensure is the monopoly granted by government to certain specific groups of people to provide services such as medical care, legal advice or engineering.
Many governments also ban advertising by professionals which prevents effective competition. Minimum tariffs are also imposed.
New York State in the United States has now repealed all bans against professional advertising. California has done so in regard to the health professions, that is doctors, dentists, specialists, etc. The US Supreme Court has also recently ruled against bans on legal advertising. The Dental Association has encouraged the repeal of all restrictions on dental advertising.
The result of these moves is that everyone benefits – everyone except the inefficient.
For example, competent dentists have improved business by advertising a set of upper and lower plates at $350, which is $250 less than the $600 which they cost before advertising. In this way, a greater number of improved services have become available to lower-income groups, as well as everyone else.
Who is protected?
Have you ever wondered why a suburban vet needs to study for six years and specialize in areas of medicine he will never use, in order to treat wounds, distemper, biliary, cat flu, and a few other problems experienced by domestic pets?
General practitioners, too, undergo many years of training which they do not require in order to treat day to day illnesses or to refer an unusual problem to a specialist.
Attorneys who are going to handle debt collecting or conveyancing do not need to learn public, international or constitutional law.
Professional licensure was not established to protect the public from malpractice, as is claimed. It was introduced to protect established members of the professions from competition. The price we pay for their protection is appallingly high.
In South Africa, estate gents and travel agents have recently been monopolised, too. We can expect others to follow: photographers, journalists, waiters, barbers and so on, as in many other countries of the ‘free world’.
And here comes the rub…
An extreme example of this type of protectionism is currently being perpetrated by the Medical and Dental Council. They are regulating massage parlours. Now, before some voluptuous person will be allowed to rub your weary neck, back or shoulders after a hard day’s work, she (or he) will gave to have passed an examination and will have to be medically orientated with a sound scientific training. An examination will held in August 1978 and will not be repeated. After that, he register will be closed permanently. Yes, that’s right, closed. There will be no newcomers, no matter what he demand or supply. Highly-trained immigrant masseurs and masseuses will be debarred.
We are told that this is to protect the public from receiving unqualified services. Apart from the fact that the public are quite capable of deciding for themselves what services hey will require, the reason given is not true. In reality, the regulation is being made in order to shield physiotherapists from competition in an area where their qualifications can hardly be said to be necessary.
Disclaimer: This article originally appeared in The Individualist of March 1978 (Vol. 3 No. 3). The Individualist was last published by the Libertarian Society of South Africa.