Fortunately, this sort of nonsense has been mostly squelched here in Bama (for now), but, no doubt Blaine Galliher or some other busybody will try to get another licensing regime passed into law that will pass constitutional muster. Here’s the ever-excellent Reason.tv on the horrors of unlicensed interior designers:

The idea that consumers can’t be sure of anything unless some part of the gubmint has given it a green light is patently absurd, but certainly seems to keep cropping up everywhere. I understand why groups like ASID and their bureaucrat enablers would want such regulation, but it amazes me how entrenched this thinking is in folks that I come into contact with. As if not having regulations for buttons, pencils, cars, interior design services, chefs, doctors, et cetera means that people intent on killing everyone will become button makers or chefs and design button bombs or serve poison meals.

Most folks want the same thing: to live a peaceful life and practice their trade freely. They’re not trying to kill you or hurt you because they understand what repeat business means and are willing to check whatever homicidal tendencies (and even bad attitudes!) to make sure that your business experience with them is a pleasant one. The type of folks who spend 30 years crafting their revenge schemes aren’t found in kitchens or repair shops; they’re in comic books and on the silver screen.

I understand why groups like ASID seek state licensing rather than just creating their own safety/professionalism/best practice guidelines a la Underwriters Laboratories. They want to force everyone to follow what in their minds constitutes proper practice of a particular trade because their chosen profession is so important that it cannot be left up to individual interpretation or a difference in opinion. There is only one right way to do this or that and we will not brook any dissent. Part of this stems from the fact that “professionals” believe themselves to be better than those who have chosen a mere “job.” That is, because they have invested time in schooling or in obtaining a particular license, they serve protection from competition by those yahoos who “just think things up” or have not had to go through as much work or have chosen a different path to get where they are. “I have a piece of paper, so I deserve compensation” is the attitude I run across fairly often.

The above brings to mind this excellent passage from Bastiat’s The Law, where he compares bureaucrats to witch doctors [selectively edited by me:]:

This must be said: There are too many “great” men in the world — legislators, organizers, do-gooders, leaders of the people, fathers of nations, and so on, and so on. Too many persons place themselves above mankind; they make a career of organizing it, patronizing it, and ruling it.

Now someone will say: “You yourself are doing this very thing.” True. But it must be admitted that I act in an entirely different sense; if I have joined the ranks of the reformers, it is solely for the purpose of persuading them to leave people alone. I do not look upon people as Vancauson looked upon his automaton. Rather, just as the physiologist accepts the human body as it is, so do I accept people as they are. I desire only to study and admire.

My attitude toward all other persons is well illustrated by this story from a celebrated traveler: He arrived one day in the midst of a tribe of savages, where a child had just been born. A crowd of soothsayers, magicians, and quacks — armed with rings, hooks, and cords [and parchments inscribed with various stamps and seals] — surrounded it. One said: “This child will never smell the perfume of a peace-pipe unless I stretch his nostrils.” Another said: “He will never be able to hear unless I draw his ear-lobes down to his shoulders.” A third said: “He will never see the sunshine unless I slant his eyes.” Another said: “He will never stand upright unless I bend his legs.” A fifth said: “He will never learn to think unless I flatten his skull.” [A sixth said: "How will he ever learn to coordinate throw pillows and rugs unless I teach him for three years and then he pass our village's interior design certification exam."]

“Stop,” cried the traveler. “What God does is well done. Do not claim to know more than He. God has given organs to this frail creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, use, experience, and liberty.”


4 Responses to “ASID’s war on interior designers”  

  1. 1 Hoechstetter Interiors

    Great post, Tom – thanks! You really have hit the nail on the head with calling this a “war” on interior designers, because that’s exactly what it is. Whoever heard of a “professional” organization trying to pass legislation that would put the majority of its own members out of business? It seems incredible, but that’s exactly what’s happening.

    If you’d like to know more about the subject of anticompetitive interior design legislation, please visit my blog No Design Legislation at http://nodesignlegislation.wordpress.com to find a growing assortment of articles and list of links of interest. The Interior Design Protection Council http://idpcinfo.org in particular keeps up on what’s going on in all states.

    Wendy Hoechstetter
    http://hoechstetterinteriors.wordpress.com

  2. 2 tom

    Thanks for your comment Wendy!

    Sadly, politically-connected professional organizations are usually all about limiting entry into a particular business and putting those who don’t meet that group’s definition of what a practitioner in that field ought to do or be like out of business or prohibit them from entering the business in the first place. Not only do such legally-enforced prohibitions prevent many people from entering a particular line of work, they protect folks who can jump through the hoops or pass an exam from competition and allow them to charge a higher rate than they would be able to under open competition, which ultimately drives up prices for professional services and hurts the consumer.

    Thank you for fighting to keep the interior design field free of needless rules and open to competition!

    Tom

  3. 3 Hoechstetter Interiors

    Tom,

    Yup, you’ve nailed the issues right on the head for sure. A number of studies exist, as I’m sure you must be aware, documenting the anticompetitive motivation for most occupational licensing attempts in most professions.

    The other thing that such laws do is to limit consumer choice. In interior design in particular, the legislative focus is so much on technology and codes that the very creativity that is the desired end result would be lost. Many of the very finest designers in the country today would not even be eligible to remain in practice if they had to meet these requirements.

    Sadly, the designers who are pushing for legislation also seem to believe that it’s possible to legislate their way into being perceived as “professionals”, which of course is a completely ridiculous notion.

    Thankfully, most state legislatures are seeing the truth of the situation and either not passing these bills when they come up, or governors are vetoing them if they do – or, as has happened in Alabama, on occasion, the laws are being struck down as unconstitutional. We’ve managed to block something like 30 separate bills in the past year alone. I think that the fact that only 4 standing practice acts exist today despite *thirty years* worth of cartel efforts to legislate the profession really says something about the need for such things, and I can only hope that we will see an end to this kind of nonsense soon.

    Anyways, thanks again for highlighting this issue. The more people who know about idiocy like this, the better.

    Wendy Hoechstetter
    http://nodesignlegislation.wordpress.com

  1. 1 ASID and licensing : Central Indiana NARI

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