Thursday, June 21, 2012

Occupational Licensure Threatens Free Speech in NC

In my TOS post, It's Time to End Occupational Licensure, I cited examples of how government licensure powers not only violate every individual's right to earn a living, but potentially enables government to violate any of our inalienable rights. I wrote:

  • A Florida legislator threatens a doctor with loss of his medical license for exercising his First Amendment rights.
  • proposed Massachusetts law would force health care providers to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients as a condition of their medical licenses.
  • Beginning
  •  next year, New York lawyers will be required to perform fifty hours of free legal services as a condition of their law licenses.

Another example of this wide-ranging threat comes out of North Carolina, where the Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit challenging the notion that occupational licensing laws trump free speech. Here is an excerpt from Caveman Blogger Fights for Free Speech and Internet Freedom:

   Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what food people should buy at the grocery store?
   That is exactly the claim made by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. In December 2011, diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his popular blog ( to answer reader questions. One month later, the State Board informed Steve that he could not give readers advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics. The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls with readers and friends were illegal, as was his paid life-coaching service. The State Board went through Steve's writings with a red pen, indicating what he may and may not say without a government-issued license.

The Institute seeks "seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law: When does the government's power to license occupations trump free speech?"

Of course, the fundamental question is: What right does the government have to demand that private individuals obtain a state license to earn a living? It's hard to see how "Caveman's" free speech rights can coexist with state licensure laws. Nonetheless, the Institute's fight to reign in government's licensure powers is most welcome.

For more, see:

Licensure Epidemic

The Coming Collision Between the Doctors and the State

The Growing Horror of Occupational Licensure

In Answer to a Reader about Licensure

Sometimes The Best Medical Care Is Provided By Those Who Aren't M.D.s, by Amesh Adalja, M.D.

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