Free to Choose an Unlicensed Practitioner
June 2020: I read this essay and added commentary for Episode 296 of the Everything Voluntary podcast.
I recently forwarded an article to a conservative colleague that argued for America to lift it's restrictions on trade with and travel to Cuba. The conclusion contained a small argument against the belief that the government is here to allow us to do certain things:
Contrast statism with libertarianism. Libertarians, unlike statists, hold that man has been endowed by nature and God with fundamental, inherent rights that exist independently of government. Since such rights do not come from government, people don’t need to get governmental permission to exercise them.My colleague agreed with most of the article, but had a problem with that last sentence. A discussion ensued. We talked back and forth about the necessity of government licenses for various occupations. I believe the voluntary actions of individuals are all that's needed to keep businesses "in check". He disagreed, as all conservative do, and ultimately the discussion ended with him walking away. (That tells me I've really challenged his views.)
What are such rights? Not only the right to publish or read whatever you want or to peaceably assemble with others, but also the right to sustain your life through labor, to engage in economic activity, to engage in any occupation or trade, to trade with others, to accumulate the fruits of your earnings, to travel wherever you want, and to do what you want with your own money. And all without governmental permission.
My last point before the discussion ended was that I, as a consumer, should be the regulator. What I meant by this was that I should be free to patronize either a licensed or an unlicensed practitioner, if I so choose. The government should not be restricting my liberty to patronize whomever I want.
Many argue, as have I, that liberty for the practitioner should not be restricted via licensing laws (and other economic regulations). But this isn't the complete argument for liberty. Those who promote the need for government regulations and licensure do so from a "consumer safety" perspective. Who doesn't want consumer safety? Libertarians should follow their lead and include in their message a "consumer liberty" perspective. Not only do state-imposed economic regulations and licensure restrict the liberty of producers, but also of consumers. And not only do they take away consumer choice, they also force consumers to accept the premise that they are incapable of choosing safely for themselves. And that's just what our "rulers" want us to believe.