Economist Milton Friedman [MF], icon of free marketeers, libertarians, and most conservatives, contributed to headaches and cut classes during undergraduate studies. While some of his ideas may seem peculiar, others stubbornly persist in our current political climate. Friedman was especially indignant concerning the licensure of professionals, particularly medical practitioners, stating: “Licensure . . . frequently establishes the medieval guild kind of regulation. . . ,” reducing quantity and quality. Now keep in mind, this is the opinion of a Nobel laureate who also opposed the military draft in favor of a volunteer army and criticized the Founding Fathers for creating a monopoly of the US Post Office.
Imagine Friedman today, driving [which, by the way, he also criticized the licensing of] along Braddock Road to the National Right to Work [NRTW] building to interview an attorney [ESQ] and plead his case for legal intervention in his quest to become a lawyer. Perhaps the conversation might have proceeded like this:
MF: I need a really good attorney to help me fight for my right to work as understood in the international sense, as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Rerum Novarum. I have a right to be a lawyer, to practice law.
ESQ: Oh, that right to work concept is claptrap from the far left and an errant pope who did not understand economics. A document from the UN? Puhleeeze! In America, we know what freedom is and NRTW defines it for workers every day. Workers do not have to pay union dues and may still enjoy the benefits of the union’s work.
MF: That’s great and I want to be in that boat. Look, I want to practice law but Virginia and bar associations require payment of fees and an extensive and expensive education. Obama and his administration issued a report on how licensure restricts job growth by 2.85 million and costs the public $203 billion. This is a tailor-made issue for NRTW. Help me create a job! The Libertarian Party supports this idea in its platform!
ESQ: By definition, the report is suspect as propaganda from a socialist administration. Licensure is good for the public; it keeps out bad actors and ensures quality services. Socialists and communists don’t believe in job creation.
MF: Come on, most of the high profile criminal cases today involve lawyers cheating someone. Haven’t you read my books and articles demonstrating that licensure establishes a medieval guild kind of regulation where the guilders can charge higher fees and inflate their own wages? You must know Adam Smith’s caution: People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or some contrivance to raise prices. Isn’t that true?
ESQ: Well, yes, and our organization fights against unions that force employees to pay dues or fees to get or keep a job. That’s freedom and the right to work. Yes, lawyers are organized like a guild.
MF: Guild, schmild! It’s a labor organization with a funny name just like a union. I still can’t practice law. What do I have to do? Be like Dr. Rand Paul and create my own licensing organization? Lawyers write the bar exam, run the law schools, and populate the state’s bar admissions committee. It’s anti-competitive to participate. Guilds are a dictatorship of the proletariat, a Marxist principle.
ESQ: Well, maybe you have a point. I can confer with my colleagues and officers of the organization.
MF: Oh, for God’s sake! Tell me you’re an associate just like the journeymen in the guilds or law firm associates. Not yet a master ready to make a decision for a client. NRTW campaigns around the country promoting freedom for others but not for your own trade?
ESQ: It would take far too much time to explain all this. Rest assured we will discuss your claim and get back to you.
MF: What is your fee?
Just sayin’ . . . it coulda happened!