Trance Licensing


Kevin Carey tells a tale:

Madame Evil Eyes can't do business in the state of Indiana without a license.

While Congress has become pretty thoroughly professionalized in recent decades, state legislatures are still home to some genuinely eccentric people. Back when I was working for the Indiana General Assembly, one member (and not the member who was, no lie, a radio psychic) became convinced that it was crucially important for the state to address, via statute, the problem of rogue hypnotists travelling the land, preying upon unsuspecting Hoosiers. He wasn't anti-hypnotist, mind you–he thought the government needed to protect people from unqualified hypnotists. If you ask me, real hypnotists are the ones we should be worried about (You want…to give me…your credit card…information…) but then I'm not a duly-elected public servant.

So the state passed a hypnotist licensing law, complete with the requisite boards, professional standards, forms to fill out, fees to pay, and so on. The law is still on the books; see here for more information on the Indiana Hypnotist Committee and its approved study guides (e.g. Hypnosis, Is it For You?, Lewis R. Wolberg, M.D., Dembner Books 1982.) If you're interested, the next exam is scheduled for Friday, December 11th at 9:00 AM. Bring a pencil!

Then, after the law was enacted, a funny thing started happening: The state began receiving license applications from people who didn't live in Indiana. People who lived in states (i.e. most states) that didn't require hypnotist licensing of any kind. Some were from as far away as California. It turns out they were doing it so they could advertise in the yellow pages and on bus-stop billboards as "state-licensed." They would just neglect to mention which state.

Carey's point is that (a) there's a lot of stupid occupational licensing laws out there, but (b) there's also a need for some way to signal that you're competent. I would add two more lessons: (c) people aren't always honest about the signals they're sending, and (d) sometimes licensing can facilitate that dishonesty rather than restrain it.

NEXT: Climategate and Ideology

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  1. It’s unfair to post a picture of Nancy Pelosi cropped out of context.

    1. Oh, believe me, with Pelosi, the context is always much worse.

  2. “Drugs are for losers, and hypnosis is for losers with big weird eyebrows.”

  3. The signaling problem is a lot like the parking problem – it’s treated as if it’s a problem with the market when it’s actually a problem arising from government interventions in the market.

  4. I think we need tighter regulation on licensing legislators. Current regulations are not providing the public with appropriate protection from imcompetence.

    1. Nice, Brett. A solid +1

    2. That’s great, Brett. “Vote Tom Gugliotti, Democrat for Jersey 23rd Assembly District. Licensed to legislate in Virginia, Maryland, and Sicily.”

      1. and Sicily

        Magnificent. I don’t even know why, because of the mob connection, or it just being so distant from the other two. Whatever it was, i had to wipe down my monitor after that one.


        1. I liked how he’s not licenced to legislate in Jersey, but he’s still running.

  5. Oh, Indiana…I can’t wait to burn you to the ground as I leave…

  6. You don’t need to see my hypnotist license.

    These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

  7. I was just talking with a friend about pointless gov’t licensing regs. It was hilarious to hear his knee-jerk regulations protect us! reaction, and then hear him complain about how stupid, expensive and ineffectual the regulations on his profession (private investigator) were.

  8. can’t they just call it something else, like hey I’m not a hypnotist I’m a mesmerist! licensing is bullshit

  9. read my lips…

  10. I so miss Douglas Adams.

    1. Yeah.

      I have a calander with a Douglas Adams quote.

      “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

  11. ‘It was hilarious to hear his knee-jerk regulations protect us! reaction, and then hear him complain about how stupid, expensive and ineffectual the regulations on his profession (private investigator) were.’

    Well, obviously, private investigators are competent professionals whose integrity must not be called into question, unlike those other dubious professions like hair-braiding or interior decorating.

  12. Sounds like someone watched CSI last night.

  13. if signalling is the issue, there’s no reason why hypnotists (or yoga instructors, or chiropractors, or hairdressers), can form a provate association that provides accreditation. You join the organization, you take their tests, and display their certificate on your wall, and your customers know that the official professional society for whatever has approved your qualifications.

    No government intervention necessary.

  14. I became a licensed city astrologer- had to pass test, make a chart for a licence bureau employee and all. They stopped licensing astrologers shortly after my column appeared. But my license still hangs in my office.

    1. And you SO don’t want me to use my Piscionic powers on you…

  15. Piscionic? You’re Aquaman?

  16. They stopped licensing astrologers shortly after my column appeared.

    An interesting coincidence.

  17. That’s got to be a Jack Kirby drawing, no?

    1. Good eye. Kirby indeed. The panel is from Mr. Miracle #14.

  18. It’s a bummer that they decided to advertise themselves as licensed and not mention which state. I have to agree with you that people aren’t always honest in the signals they’re sending.

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    1. On one hand you are right, but on the other – are all people fakes? I don’t think so. There come times when I person reveals their true self under emotional circumstances.
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  19. “people aren’t always honest about the signals they’re sending” a very good point. People are such hypocrites nowadays, constantly upset and pretend their are not and so on. Full of their fake cheerfulness.
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