Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Licensing and Regulation...

The 108Warren Commission had to go out and get a dog license today for their fine pet dog. Normally that wouldn't really be a cause for a blog post, but today it got the commission thinking.

During this remarkably challenging economy, there has been a great deal of talk about state and local budgets. Since the members of the commission have the distinct pleasure of living in southern NJ, close to Philadelphia, we have had the opportunity to hear even more about state and local budget problems. While NJ has passed a state budget, our neighbor Pennsylvania has yet to do so...and the local municipalities are all having serious financial difficulties.

So, what does this have to do with the dog license you ask?

As local and state governments are looking at unbalanced budgets, much of the conversation has been about how to increase revenue. The consensus is that services have already been cut to the bone. The commission thinks that perhaps the consensus is a bit off base.

After getting back from spending 15 minutes and $8 to license the dog, the commission came across this article over at Market Design. It is a brief discussion on licensing, from doctors and lawyers, to an assortment of other professions. Going through some of the links from Texas' Department of Licensing and Regulation, and in particular their Cosmetology section, the Commission began to wonder at the need to regulate cosmetology and related professions. The Commission wondered what it cost the citizens of Texas for this department to rule that Fish Pedicures are not legal?

Perhaps, in this era of declining tax revenue and unbalanced budgets, it is time for citizens to reconsider the level of regulation needed in their daily lives, and what it costs. Texas is not alone -- although I have not seen a ruling on fish pedicures so easy to find in other states' websites. Do citizens really need their state to license their hair stylist? Wouldn't the market pretty quickly put bad or unsanitary salons out of business? Aren't their legal tools available to someone who feels that their salon experience has been less satisfying?

Does the Commission's town really need to know if my dog has been neutered? That seems a bit personal. Again, aren't there civil penalties in place for dog owners whose pet get "too friendly" with other dogs? Do we need the municipality to spend tax dollars to track this? While these rules may have begun to limit disease (rabies vaccination was also required for licensing), one wonders what a comparative cost analysis of licensing vs rabies treatments would show.

Perhaps it is time for citizens to take a long look at the services they ask government to provide. Everyone knows that certain entitlements are the third rail of politics, and the commission is not suggesting that we start there. The Commission suggests that if we start looking at the smaller issues where government services are really not required, perhaps someday, we will look at the larger ones too.