June 10, 2014

Free the Horse Masseuses! Occupational Licensing Must Go

Veronique de Rugy

George Gibbs Chair in Political Economy
Summary

It is high time to let Americans work. Abolish all occupational licensing laws and end the practice of entrenched businesses using government to impose higher costs on consumers while thwarting upstart entrepreneurs.

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This article appears in the July edition of Reason Magazine

Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli, and Stacey Kollman make their living by providing massage services to horses and other animals. For more than a decade, these three women have supported themselves by doing what they love while alleviating the pain of animals and bringing comfort to their owners. But if established veterinarians and bureaucrats in the state of Arizona and Maryland have their way, Kelly, Granatelli, and Kollman will not only be barred from their chosen livelihood, they could face up to $3,500 in fines and six months in jail.

The therapists are in trouble because they lack official licenses from their local State Veterinary Medical Examining Boards. But obtaining a license is absurdly difficult. "To become licensed, applicants must graduate from an accredited veterinary school, pass rigorous national and state licensing examinations and pay a $400 fee," the Institute for Justice (I.J.), a nonprofit public interest law firm representing the women, explains on its website.

None of the 28 fully accredited veterinary schools in the United States are in Arizona, and getting a diploma from any of them requires several years and thousands of dollars. Adding insult to injury, the schools are not required to teach animal massage, "nor is it necessary to demonstrate knowledge of or proficiency in massage to graduate or become licensed."

Unfortunately, this abusive treatment of American entrepreneurs isn't confined to horse masseuses. Unlicensed hairdressers, barbers, and hair braiders, too, were under attack in Washington, Utah, the District of Columbia, California, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Ohio before I.J. secured justice.

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