11A037 Do You 'Ave a License? by Jim Davies, 2/6/2011    

One of the funniest scenes in Peter Sellers' movie "The Return of the Pink Panther" takes place outside a bank in Paris, where a blind beggar with a monkey is playing an accordion while the bank is in being robbed. Inspector Clouseau approaches him but instead of calling for backup to arrest the robbers, asks whether he has a license; the hilarious exchange is transcribed here.

Just as absurd, but not in the least amusing, is that a government license seems to be required for almost everything. Why? - silly question; if you have governments, you will have controls, for that's all governments ever do. They produce nothing, but they govern, or control, other people who do produce. Good order spontaneously arises from normal operations of an unfettered market, but government people either don't understand free markets or, more likely, don't want to understand them, and so they impose the controls they imagine, or want everyone else to imagine, to be necessary - to avoid "chaos."

Hence, State by State, cosmetologists and barbers and plumbers and electricians and members of scores of other professions have to obtain government licenses, in order to earn a living. When governments have disappeared, it will be at least as easy to get a good haircut or a fixed water pipe; because craftsmen will trade on reputation. If one pretends to a skill he doesn't have, it will not be long before word gets around and when it does, he'll be out of work. Licensure is irrelevant.

My friend Elmo Zoneball drew my attention to a recent, egregious example. David Cox of Raleigh, NC, wants a set of traffic lights installed, and backed up his request with an "engineering-level report" - a professional piece of work. With almost unbelievable arrogance, instead of engaging him in a discussion of the idea on its merits, the State reprimanded him for practicing engineering without a license.

In the coming zero government society, roads will each have an owner, interested in maximizing profits by pleasing customers. Questions of whether or not to place traffic lights (or perhaps to build a traffic circle, an often neglected solution) will be settled with that purpose in view. Decisions will sometimes go against well-meant client suggestions, but will always be announced with proper courtesy, for it's the only way to keep customers.

Some engineering judgments are far more important than how best to design an intersection. Bridges, for example, are formidably expensive and safety depends on hiring the best skill available. Surely, say some, only licensed engineers should have charge of their construction?

Of course, road owners will want the best available advice, but sometimes even a fistful of degrees and licenses and records of previous success will not prevent disaster - witness Leon Moiseiff, who oversaw construction in 1940 of the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge, only to see it collapse in high winds after a few months.

Licenses guarantee nothing; they just enable government to track - and tax - everyone who earns a living, and in the Raleigh example, to brush off impertinent citizens who are so brash as to intervene with a constructive idea. They are a product of the parasitic class, and mankind will be well rid of them.

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