Western States Regulate “Interior Designers”, Where’s the Public Interest?


By: Warner Todd Huston

The State legislature of Nevada wants to be sure your home’s Feng Shui is smooth. New Mexico’s officials want to be sure that your “space” is well arranged. They are all about home decor. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they have the Home Improvement channel constantly playing in all state offices so that legislators can keep up on the latest tips. They must be experts, fanatically concerned with interior decorating, after all.

Why, you ask?

Well, because they have wasted the time of the legislature and the money of the State’s treasury to make sure that there is a legal, licensed difference between an “Interior Decorator” and just those lowly, unskilled “decorators”. Worse, there is now the iron boot heel of government standing behind the supposed “professional” status of an “Interior Designer” because if you hire someone who claims to be just a “designer” and he does work of an “Interior Designer”– whatever that is supposed to be — well, the black helicopters swoop down upon you, they unleash the hell hounds to run you to ground, and you’ll end up in the deepest pit the State of Nevada can find for up to a year, not to mention fining you $1,000.

That’s right, folks. The State of Nevada wasted its time defining what interior design “means” and has developed a license and fee schedule to control it all.

Things like these are why government at all stages has reached absurdist levels in the USA today. Our Founders waged a Revolution over a tax of a few cents on tea. We, on the other hand, are sitting still while government regulates how we can move our furniture around in our homes, or who we hire to paint a wall.

What are we… MICE or Europeans?

I get this story from George Will’s March 20th column, “Government regulation goes step too far in Nevada”. Will makes some great points with it, too.

Will pegs some of this to the “Interior Design” interests in the western states.

Being able to control the number of one’s competitors, and to dispense the pleasure of status, is nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you have a legislature willing to enact ”titling laws.” They regulate – meaning restrict – the use of job descriptions. Such laws often are precursors of occupational licensing, which usually means a mandatory credentialing process to control entry into a profession with a particular title.

Will understands rightly that this licensing thing is just a racket set up by certain trade groups who are trying to control their own industry, preventing competition. And some nanny-state politicians who love a “cause”, not to mention the benefits of a trade union or guild that is beholden to them, are happy to comply.

Will spends most of his column on the issue of the quashing of competition among decorating businesses but does briefly bring up another point.

Government licenses professions to protect the public and ensure quality. It licenses engineers and doctors because if their testable skills are deficient, bridges collapse and patients die. The skills of interior designers are neither similarly measurable nor comparably disastrous when deficient.

To me, that is the far more pertinent issue. Where is the Public’s compelling interest in how “professional” someone is in painting a wall, or moving an ottoman? Where is the pressing public good affected by regulations on “Interior Designers”?

Indemnity insurance is another thing, of course, and that is a compelling interest of the law. But why is it any business of the government if someone can color coordinate your carpet with your drapes? The fact that state governments even assume such power is indicative of the overweening, nanny state into which we have slid.

And every state has idiotic laws like these, not just the western states. In the dead of night, these politicians with pockets full of IOUs from one industry or another pass these kinds of boondoggle laws meant solely to scratch the backs of pals and serving no legitimate interests of the State. And, as each year passes on we are more enslaved to government than ever before through overarching regulation.

Thomas Jefferson said that the blood of tyrants and patriots should water the tree of liberty every so often. We have long since passed the time when our Founders would have found government intolerable.

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