The Profession That Dares Not Speak Its Name

If you need a license to arrange flowers in a vase, it stands to reason that you'd need a license to arrange furniture in a house—not to mention picking paint and window treatments. Or so the state of New Mexico (along with four other states) seems to think. To be fair, you can do interior design in New Mexico without a license; you just can't call it interior design, or call yourself an interior designer, which makes it hard for potential customers to find you. Today two people who in most states would call themselves interior designers filed a federal lawsuit objecting to the state's protectionist censorship on First Amendment grounds. Guess who's helping them.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    We wouldn't want people exposed to the horror of a Danish Modern table in a Roccoco parlor, would we?

    Who knows the emotional scars that a child might endure growing up in a house with green shag carpet?

    Interior Design must be regulated to keep us safe in our homes!

  • ||

    Sure it seems like going too far but what about doctors, lawyers, etc.

    Of course, given the last doctor I saw, I might have been better off spending the money on an interior designer.

  • ||

    The school of higher learning I went to, as a part of the school of Art and Architecture, has a program wherein one can get a BA in Interior Design. I see no difference in not allowing someone who does not have a degree in Interior Design to call themselves Interior Designer and not allowing someone who does not have a degree in Engineering, Architecture, or Law to call themselves an Engineer, Architect, or Lawyer. They could call themselves Interior Decorators.

  • ||

    My dad was one of the people involved in requiring Landscape Architecture licensing in New Mexico. I think he has license number 3. The reason they wanted the licensing was because any guy with a wheelbarrow and a shovel could call himself a Landscape Architect. They felt licensing protected the consumer as well as the LA.

    Really, wouldn't you rather have someone who went through a learning/licensing process? I realize that still doesn't mean you'll get someone who does a good job, but it also means you won't get someone who watched Trading Spaces and thougt "what the heck, I can do this too".

  • ||

    Fine then. Let's make everyone who wants to be a Christian take a set amount of courses in Christian thought and the Bible. Or everyone who wants to call themselves a writer take a certain amount of writing classes?

    Ooh, better yet, Deacon, you nanny-lover you, let's just let people call themselves whatever they want, prosecute the truly fradulent and let the market sort the diamonds from the coal.

  • ||

    Oh, I thought this was Reason's site. Excuse me.




    If you support ending this kind of madness, why not donate to IJ (I have no vested interest)

  • Paul||

    Really, wouldn't you rather have someone who went through a learning/licensing process? I realize that still doesn't mean you'll get someone who does a good job, but it also means you won't get someone who watched Trading Spaces and thougt "what the heck, I can do this too".

    Mm, no. I wouldn't let anyone touch my yard unless they came recommended. I fully understand where these licensing ideas come from, but in the end, they're protection, fee sucking rackets.

    And licensing doesn't always fix the problems above. I recently read a story of licensed contractors screwing over their clients by not finishing jobs, doing improper work. The fact is, bad things can happen to good people. And in professions which are non-technical in nature, and based primarily in the aesthetic, licensing cures little. All it does is sort out the people with the financial means from those who don't.

  • uncle sam||

    There is are references available which requires no licensing:
    Interior designer: I can design your interior.
    Prospective Customer: Can you provide any references?

  • ||

    "All it does is sort out the people with the financial means from those who don't."


    And that, folks, is how most regulations get started in the first place.

    Ken, maybe your dad was only benevolent in his ideas as to why landscape architects should be licensed, but I'll bet there were some people who supported the idea who were only looking at their bottom line.

    Not to mention, regulations of this sort fall under the law of unintended consequences. It may be well-meaning, but ends up being a net negative.

    Finally, these kinds of laws/regulations are so obscure, it's easy to run afoul of them without having any notion that such a regulation exists.

    These are the kinds of things that should make libertarians out of everybody. :)

  • ||

    "prosecute the truly fradulent and let the market sort the diamonds from the coal."

    Just to be clear. You would prosecute those who fradulently claim to be interior designers? How is that different than the current law?

    For the sake of argument, doesn't the market benefit from truth in advertising? Is it not one of the legitimate roles of government to protect citizens from false claims? If the product being sold is your knowledge and training, and you claim to have knowledge and training you don't have, isn't that fraud?

  • ||

    FWIW, interior designers are very different than interior decorators in skill sets. The two disciplines, while they frequently overlap, are not interchangeable.

    Not that I'm defending state intervention and licensing laws...

  • ||

    "All it does is sort out the people with the financial means from those who don't."


    And that, folks, is how most regulations get started in the first place.

    Ken, maybe your dad was only benevolent in his ideas as to why landscape architects should be licensed, but I'll bet there were some people who supported the idea who were only looking at their bottom line.

    Not to mention, regulations of this sort fall under the law of unintended consequences. It may be well-meaning, but ends up being a net negative.

    Finally, these kinds of laws/regulations are so obscure, it's easy to run afoul of them without having any notion that such a regulation exists.

    These are the kinds of things that should make libertarians out of everybody. :)

  • ||

    SOrry guys, there is a difference between Interior Designers and Interior Decorators. Designers have been through school and darn near architects and usually employed by architecture firms. As a commercial contractor I deal with Designers all the time. There is more to it than picking out and arranging furniture. I see no reason not distinguish between the two.

  • ||

    I see no problem with a trade organization promoting it's work through testing and certification and such. There is a difference between a designer and a decorator, and the interior designers have every right to educate the consumer about the differences. What they don't have the right to do is use the state as a tool to limit the number of designers "allowed" to work, or push people out of business who engage in related and sometimes overlapping disciplines.

  • ||

    Nick's right. Argue against licensing all you want, but this example is weak. It'd be like confusing psychologist with psychiatrist. I know they kinda sound the same and both deal with humans...

  • ||

    dpotts,

    Thank you, that very nicely and economically sums up my opinion on the matter.

  • ||

    kohrabi,

    Didn't you just argue both sides of the case?

    dpotts is exactly right, and I'm sure most here would agree.

  • ||

    Thanks, now I hate my dad. And my wife. Why go to her at a spa to have a skin treatment when anyone should be allowed to slather your face with chemicals? And me, why hire a licensed merchant mariner, with life saving and safety training when just anyone should be able to do it?

    I realize landscaping isn't a life and death profession, but it still takes more than knowing where a retaining wall should go and filling a yard with plants. I would be happy to hire a good lanscaper to work on my yard, but who do you hire to do urban planning?

  • ||

    Brian24,

    No. I acknowledged that the disciplines are different only and that this is a bad example to make the case. I can see how it came across that way, though.

    In a nutshell, I'm against the licensing requirement, but don't think the argument should be made by confusing the disciplines. Ie. You might say that a Designer should not require a license, but don't do it by saying they're a Decorator. That's what I meant by the psychologist/psychiatrist analogy. You can make an argument about requirements for either, but it doesn't help to confuse them.

    That's why I liked Dpott's post. The Designers could have any number of professional certifications, but don't use the state for them.

    I guess there's 3 different parallel arguments.

    1) Should Designers be state certified? (I think no)

    3) Are there other ways to distinguish them that don't require the state? (yes)

    3) Are designers the same as decorators? (no)

  • ||

    Why go to her at a spa to have a skin treatment when anyone should be allowed to slather your face with chemicals?

    Well, shouldn't it really be up to the consumer to educate themselves anyway? I know that when I'm choosing a doctor, I look at where they were educated, if they're in practice alone or with other physicians or part of a larger group of peers, and I listen to friend's recommendations. I don't think I've ever asked to see their state license. I'm not saying that the medical profession shouldn't be somewhat regulated by the state, but regulation and licensing of every last industry down to basket weaving and hair-braiding is often not only unecessary because of the winnowing process inherent in the free market, but can also become an undue burden on those attempting to enter a given profession.

  • ||

    Weren't the guys who drew up the Tacoma Narrows bridge licensed and certified ENGINEERS?

    What, if anything, can we learn from this?

  • ||

    State licensing is not the only way to differentiate those who have adequate formal training, experience, knowledge, or skills from those who don't. It is, in fact, a ploy to create an entry barrier to keep competition lower and earnings higher than they would be in a free market.

    The most obvious way to signal and differentiate quality is for associations to offer voluntary certifications, such as those for personal trainers. These can be quite rigorous, and if they are properly advertised, customers look for certificate holders.

    And, of course, customers should interview their interior designer, ask about his/her training and experience, ask to see a portfolio, and check references.

  • ||

    Do the licencing tests use fingerprinting?

    What licencing usually does is make sure that you are rich enough to send someone else in to take the test for you!

  • ||

    whoah now

    Good grief!

    Next you'll be advocating that people take responsibility for their own choices and actions.

  • ||

    Is it not one of the legitimate roles of government to protect citizens from false claims?
    Ummm... no. If that were the case, the majority of politicians would be unemployed since most campaigns are based on false claims.

    The question here is about quality. Any schmuck can design and build any given widget but the question will always be about quality. Given the open endedness of the problem, as someone can always come along and do better, it becomes a question about setting a minimum standard. Now, does the state set that standard or the market?

  • ||

    "Is it not one of the legitimate roles of government to protect citizens from false claims?
    Ummm... no."

    You need to let the LP know, they seem to think differently...

    "Principle: Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud..."

  • thoreau||

    What about secret designers? Do they need a license? Or is it a secret license?

  • ||

    The proper role of (a limited) government was quite adequately captured in the United States Constitution, which many respectable nations have emulated (and others should). The government does not need to meddle with every aspect of life, and frankly, the less it intrudes in the civil intercourse between the citizens the better off we are.

    Professional licensing should be left to private, self-governing groups and organizations that have an inherent incentive to develop a meaningful set of requirements and manage the compliance thereof for their own membership. The market is a much more efficient, effective, and impartial regulator than the government could ever hope to be.

  • ||

    The market is a much more efficient, effective, and impartial regulator than the government could ever hope to be.

    That is reasonable talk here... but mention the work "market" to most people and you could be saying the word "satan" to a conservative christian. That word alone will end the discussion with most people.

  • Paul||

    Thanks, now I hate my dad. And my wife. Why go to her at a spa to have a skin treatment when anyone should be allowed to slather your face with chemicals?

    Interesting way of putting it. 'Slathering ones face with chemicals' as if this were some type of medical procedure. I am (are you sitting down) personally, PERSONALLY aquainted with a number of poeople of the female persuasion who slather their own faces with chemicals every day-- these chemicals shall be hereto-fore known as 'makeup' and 'skincare' products. They slather their face with makeup and skin-care products to no detrimental effect whatsoever. And they do this... you're still sitting down I hope... without a license.

    Now here's the rub. At some point, common sense must prevail. If my wife can slather her own face with these *gasp* chemicals, er, makeup and skin-care products to no detrimental effect, it's reasonable conjecture to assume that she might be able to do it with no harm to others.

    On the other hand, she, nor I perform our own surgery, and if we did attempt to perform surgery on another person, it's possible, if not likely that damage could occur.

    And me, why hire a licensed merchant mariner, with life saving and safety training when just anyone should be able to do it?

    The attempt to paint every situation as a slippery slope is not productive. There will always be professions which will be licensed. Most of them technical in nature. Again, it's reasonable to assume that I, with no proper training will not be able to step on a boat and no my aft from a hole in the ground. See surgery comments above.

    I realize landscaping isn't a life and death profession, but it still takes more than knowing where a retaining wall should go and filling a

    As do all professions. ALL of them. I am a software engineer, I have no state licenses, yet I have stumbled my way through my profession-- a profession which requires more than knowing how to avoid an infinite loop or providing a propery destructor should go.

  • Paul||

    Please don't judge me by my typos above, I'm posting via an RDP connection on a slow link. Where's the damned licensed network engineer when you need him?

  • ||

    Landscape Architecture is a bad example. Screwing up drainage systems, for example, can actually be a life-or-death problem. Picking the wrong tree species could mean miles of roads destroyed by roots in a few years.

    Arguing against licensing for them is more akin to arguing agaisnt licensing physicians than florists.

  • uncle sam||

    "Principle: Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud..."

    I have another description: government is the gang whose victims believe they are members of said gang.

  • ||

    That is reasonable talk here... but mention the work "market" to most people and you could be saying the word "satan" to a conservative christian. That word alone will end the discussion with most people.

    Because most people don't know how to disentangle the abstract mechanism of the market from the interests of specific economic entities.

  • ||

    Joe's right. Thank god Olmstead had his landscape architecture license properly displayed or our lives would be a little less green today.

  • ||

    Private certification is preferable to state licensing because the consumer decides which certifying group he or she trusts. When the state steps in, improving on a poor standard can be difficult. Worse, corrupt officials can just sell the license without caring if those paying the bribes are anywhere near qualified.

    Case in point: ex-IL Gov. George Ryan gets 6 1/2 years.

    Kevin

  • ||

    Wow, Jimbo, you really discredited my argument that it is impossible for anyone without certification to ever do a quality job of designing a landscape.

    Oh, wait a second...

  • ||

    Advice to New Mexican furniture arrrangers: call what you are doing feng shui and they won't be able to touch you. Heck, you might be able to claim "free exercise of religion" as a defense against the regulators. :)

    kevin

  • ||

    Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud...

    No body, no murder.

  • ||

    [URL]http://www.teatro.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.festa.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.informatica.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.pornografia.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.juventus.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.pizza.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.casa.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.abiti-da-sposa.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.milano.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.pizza.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.festa.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.casa.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.juventus.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.teatro.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.milano.divertito.info[/URL] [URL]http://www.abiti-da-sposa.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.rumore.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.pornografia.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.apoteosi.org[/URL] [URL]http://www.informatica.rumore.org[/URL]

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement