Occupational Licensing

Does the First Amendment Protect Tour Guides? Philadelphia Says No.


Next week attorneys from the Institute for Justice will appear before the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge a Philadelphia law requiring tour guides to pass a government test and receive a government license before offering tours of the city. Is this a case of occupational licensing abuse, or is the City of Brotherly Love just offering some legitimate protection from the scourge of lawless storytelling? The Institute for Justice makes its case in the video below:

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  1. Since when is anyone in government worried about truth in story-telling?

    1. They’re very worried about someone telling the truth in a story.

  2. “And right up there is the brick that Nicholas Cage dug out to find the spectacles so he could read the back of the Declaration of Independence.”

  3. And over there is Independence Hall where the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence breaking with Great Britain for King George III’s refusal to repeal the Bush tax cuts.

  4. Let’s see, according to liberals the 1st Amemdment doesn’t apply to

    1. commercial speech
    2. political speech if such speech involves money
    3. speech protected groups find offensive

    Just what the hell does it apply to?

    1. Posters illustrating proper condom usage for kindergarten.

    2. Only to Liberals.

    3. Criticizing Republicans.


    We rest our case, Your Honor.

  6. It shouldn’t be hard to pass the test, all you have to do is memorize:

    “And on your right/left you’ll see PPA writing a ticket.”

    And if (when) traffic is bad:

    “Please note the PPA employee in front of you handing you a ticket for being stopped in one spot for too long.”

    1. The PPA is a scourge.

  7. Honestly, those tour guides say some seriously dumb and wrong shit. I hated working down in that section and hearing the patently wrong history being spouted. I wouldn’t mind if the private companies enforced some self-discipline and started requiring a history test as a condition of hiring, but having the city do it is silly.

    1. Remember:

      You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.

      1. Of course, which is why it’s silly for the city gov’t to enforce this rule. But if a tour guide company has a policy about the historical accuracy of the information their tour guides say … I have no problem with them firing or hiring based on that.

      2. And the customer isn’t free until he’s free to get what he PAID for: a non-bullshit tour. But fuck his freedom, right? Why do you hate customers?

        Also, apparently you glibertarian slobs can’t read: the prohibition is NOT against speech or even giving a tour, it’s against offering TICKETS to a tour – which is an excellent idea given how many ahistorical boobs are running around (even outside of Reason.com).

        1. Wait, those tourists are in interstate commerce. So isn’t licensing of tour guides an enumerated power of the federal government? The City of Philadelphia is poaching license fees that belong to the nation!

        2. So you’d have no problems with, say, requiring anyone who wants to issue a newspaper for sale to be licensed, after passing a test on journalistic ethics and knowledge of major events of the past 10 years?

        3. A guide who does not provide what the customer paid for is committing fraud, which is already illegal.

          1. “A guide who does not provide what the customer paid for is committing fraud, which is already illegal.”

            Which means exactly nothing. Listen closely: Never, ever, ever, not once in the entire history and prehistory of pot smoking libertarian retardation has a tour guide ever been fined, arrested, nor in any way sanctioned by any state for fraudulently misinforming a customer. Ever. You can suck on that bong of yours from now until your delusional toy politics goes the way of the Whigs and it will never, ever, ever happen.

            That is a false threat that costs nobody anything. By comparison, a real cost is a customer who is taken by a tour guide who is there to take his money for no reason other than he wants to be taking money in exchange for any old shit he calls a “tour”.

            On this planet, when we are successful as a group, we do not arrange things to suit the minority. We arrange them to suit the majority. And customers are the majority, meaning that if there is ever a real choice (as opposed to a fake-ass libertarian thought experiment choice) between protecting one or the other, the majority is the one to be protected every time.

            1. If I’m willing to pay a tour guide to show me around Philadelphia, the vote of the people involved in the transaction is 2-0 in favor of the tour guide showing me around Philadelphia.

              That’s a majority where I come from.

              1. Yes, give my regards to the people on your planet. Pretty amazing they managed interplanetary travel without mastering large numbers.

                Also: nobody ever, ever, ever would (or even could) stop you from paying to have someone you wanted to show you around town even if this licensing was required. That is not how the world works.

                Cut the disingenuous bullshit, Rothbard. It’s Rothbarded.

                1. Except where the cops stopped anyone who you wanted to show you around town from doing so unless they were licensed, that is.

            2. Fuck you, Orel.

            3. “Never, ever, ever, not once in the entire history and prehistory of pot smoking libertarian retardation has a tour guide ever been fined, arrested, nor in any way sanctioned by any state for fraudulently misinforming a customer.”

              Where’s the fire?

        4. Fuck you, Orel.

          1. Did I mention:

            Fuck you, Orel.

    2. And maybe if people would read a little bit, they wouldn’t be able to get away with being wrong. You know what tour guides are never wrong about anything? Rangers at Gettysburg national battlefield. Why? Not because they are any smarter than other guides. But because there are so many civil war geeks out there, even the smallest mistake is likely to illicit a merciless rhetorical beating by someone in the group. Those guys just can’t get away with being wrong about anything.

      1. Yeah, even about stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with the Civil War, like the pronunciation of “Gettysburg” (named after a Gettys, not any relative of J.P. Getty or any other Getty) or where Eisenhower golfed or the number of light bulbs in every install’n of the Electric Map.

        1. I just remembered I wan’t remembering park rangers, but guides at the various privately owned museums!

    3. See, the city doesn’t care about whether the guides are wrong. It only cares that they are wrong in the right way.

  8. Think of all the jobs saved or created…or er…something.

  9. My man Bobby! Dude gives a mean constitutional lecture.

  10. I’ve always thought Boston and Chicago spawned the most entertaining breed of asshole, but recent trips to to Philly have me reassessing that assumption.

  11. It appears to me as if occupational licensing is most prevalent for occupations that require the least training. Largely, this seems to occur because people in that occupation stand a greater risk of competition from newly, easily trained, replacements. Occupational licensing also exists for doctors and lawyers, but barely exists in IT, and is rarely relevant to engineers, since most are employed by large firms.
    By contrast, we see a proliferation of licensing laws for fields such as beauty, hairdressing, floral arrangement, yoga instruction, tour guides, plumbing, electrician, massage therapy, and so on. These are all areas that require only a little technical training to learn. Also, having interacted with people who go into these rapidly growing trendy occupations like massage therapy and yoga instruction, a lot of them are constantly threatened by competition, sicne so many people are jumping on the same bandwagon. What happens is that they think that a short course will get them into a lucrative occupation, then find out there aren’t that many jobs, and they have to recruit their own clients, and then they become inclined to support licensing laws to keep new entrants out of the market.

    Also, these fields tend to start developing their own propaganda to justify licensing laws. Everyone who is already in the field had an economic interest in maintaining the licensing regime while those thazt aren;t are automatically discredited, since they don’t have a license.

    1. It appears to me as if occupational licensing is most prevalent for occupations that require the least training.

      It appears to me you’ve undercounted all the health care professions, and may have forgotten about teaching.

      1. The only teaching that requires a license is K-12. Most of which you don’t need much training for.

      2. For example, I taught 7th grade Sunday school and Wednesday night CCD when I was 19 with absolutely no training on how to teach. It really isn’t hard so long as you know the subject you’re supposed to be teaching (which is not itself required for a license).

    2. By all means, please work on the wiring in your house after you’ve had a little training. Please.

      1. I wired my house and had it inspected by the Ontario Electrical Safety Association. I did have to buy a permit, $150, but no license or test was required, other than the inspection itself.

      2. Hell, I’ve done minor household wiring with no training. Worked a treat, too.

      3. Fuck you, Orel.

  12. Oh, I get it: one/one-one/one-one for First Amendment. Cute.

  13. Here’s a 2009 article with background info:

    I really wish the City Govt weren’t involved. But this is a clear case of long-running mass fraud perpetrated against consumers who have neither prior knowledge of the fraud nor recourse. The private employers have failed to act on numerous well-documented complaints. Concluding that the tour operators are complicit in the fraud is certainly reasonable.

    Sure, this is heavy-handed and ham-fisted, but that’s what we get when the market fails and govt intervenes. Esp. in the “Cradle of Liberty,” as PHL likes to call itself (and hates to live up to).

    To the commenters who said, “maybe the customers should read more”: Why is this the customers’ fault? And how much US history should foreign tourists have to know?

    1. Numerous, well documented complaints? If the WSJ article is accurate one guy is doing all of the complaining and one guy was driving the effort to get the law passed. That guy, a tour guide himself, may have a financial interest in seeing the State impose restrictions on his profession.

      The city purports to be concerned with the correctness of information being imparted to its tourists. The city contends it has a legitimate interest in the information vendors are imparting to the city’s tourists. That contention notwithstanding, the solution here is for the city to ask its citizens to fund an alternative to the commercial tour guides through its own park services.

      As with many questions concerning speech, the liberal response to the expression of bad and incorrect ideas and information is the expression of good and correct ideas and information. The illiberal response, the city’s response, is suppression.

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