An Appeal for Federal Intervention
BY JUSTIN OWEN
I don’t know that I’ve ever called for the feds to intervene in state action. Washington is already far too involved in our daily lives and needs to return to its very limited constitutional obligations. As the 10th Amendment decrees, everything besides these limited obligations should be left to the states or the people themselves. I’m a big believer in federalism, allowing states to set their own policies, and states serving as laboratories of democracy as our Founders intended.
However, sometimes when states are trampling on the rights of their citizens, it becomes appropriate for the federal government to act. This action is not to usurp the regulation of those citizens for itself, but to protect their liberties. When it comes to occupational licensing, the Federal Trade Commission is one agency doing just that.
As a recent Wall Street Journal article notes, the FTC has launched an Economic Liberty Task Force to hold state occupational licensing boards accountable for imposing anti-competitive regulations.
This becomes a problem when a licensing board, say a dental board created to regulate dentists and made up almost entirely of dentists, begins to pass rules declaring that only licensed dentists can do certain things. This exact situation took place when the FTC sued the North Carolina dental board for prohibiting non-dentists from offering teeth whitening services, a clear anti-competitive regulation. This kind of activity is pervasive within state licensing boards across the nation, even right here in Tennessee. Beacon recently represented two women who were put out of business as horse massage therapists when the state veterinary board ruled that only licensed veterinarians or those employed by them could provide the service.
It’s not often that we should welcome the feds in with open arms. Although, when they arrive to defend our freedoms rather than take them away, it can actually be a good thing. The FTC should be applauded for holding government licensing boards accountable for anti-competitive activity just like it does for private companies. Hopefully, the FTC can help stop these licensing boards from attempting to limit competition in their industry and trampling on the right to earn a living as a result.