Libertarians often disagree with their non-libby friends about the need for government-mandated occupational licensing in fields like medicine. The idea behind such licensing is that the government has a compelling interest in protecting citizens and that licensing actually achieves that end. The evidence is not as cut and dried on the latter point as many people assume, but at least there’s enough meat there to warrant a discussion.
Whatever you think about occupational licensing in the context of medicine, there’s one field where the government’s “compelling interest” – and ability to successfully execute on it – is particularly hard to defend: interior design.
In three U.S. states, government officials are, right now, “protecting” their citizens from bad Feng Shui, misguided uses of prints with plaids, gauche arrangements of bric-a-brac, and other crimes against fabulosity. No one in Florida, for instance, can call himself an interior designer lest he receives the official imprimatur of the state. The Institute for Justice has filed suit to overturn the licensing requirement. Imagine the harm to Floridians if they succeed….
No. I can’t imagine any either.
In this field, more than any other, the real reason for most occupational licensing becomes apparent: cartelization to protect incumbent businesses from competition.
UPDATE: Check out this video by ReasonTV about the interior design license laws around the country.