Occupational Licensing

Arizona Pharmacy Board—So Necessary It Doesn't Bother Checking Pharmacists' Credentials


Lady of Procrastination

Occupational licensing supposedly protects us from incompetent, unqualified and unscrupulous practitioners in all sorts of fields. Don't you know that you can get such an owie if the person doing your nails doesn't have a piece of paper issued by a bureaucrat hanging on the wall? But the premise of that argument is that not only are licensing requirements more effective than consumers asking each other for the name of a good doctor/mechanic/nail place at ensuring the public gets good service, but also that licensing bodies actually check credentials before issuing licenses. That's not always the case, as Arizona's Office of the Auditor General tells us about the licensing of pharmacists in the Copper State.

According to the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy:

The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy protects the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Arizona by regulating the practice of pharmacy and the distribution, sale and storage of prescription medications and devices and non-prescription medications.

So, no owies for us, right? No unqualified knuckleheads in the back of the drug store holding up the merchandise and saying, "I wonder what this little blue one does?"

Except, State Auditor General Debra Davenport and her staff, in their latest report (PDF) on the board, found:

The Board issued 12 of 40 licenses and permits from fiscal years 2011 and 2012, or 30 percent of those that auditors reviewed, without ensuring that applicants met all requirements. By doing so, the Board was at risk for issuing licenses and permits to nonqualified applicants.

Note that the 40 applications checked are only a sample of roughly 5,000 initial licenses (for pharmacists, techs and the like) and 900 initial permits (for premises) issued during each of 2011 and 2012.

Among the unchecked credentials, says the report, was evidence that applicants had ever attended pharmacy school. The lack of credential checks occurred in four of 30 reviewed licenses, and eight of ten permits. The auditor's office attributed the problem to "a lack of policies and procedures" and inadequate applications.

Why would the The Board of Pharmacy be so lax? Well, it's probably worth knowing that the body doesn't receive revenues from taxes, but funds itself out of the fees it charges. The more paper issued, the more fees.

More to the point, though, licensing has never really been about ensuring qualifications and protecting the public. As Morris Kleiner, a labor professor at the University of Minnesota, told the Wall Street Journal in 2011, "Occupations prefer to be licensed because they can restrict competition and obtain higher wages. If you go to any statehouse, you'll see a line of occupations out the door wanting to be licensed."

Kleiner reported that as of 2008, 23 percent of American workers need licenses of some sort to do their jobs, up from five percent in 1950. Not surprisingly, growth in employment is a lot faster in occupations in states where they're not licensed than in states where they are, by about 20 percent. And consumers pay more to licensed workers than unlicensed ones.

As we've seen, those licensed workers aren't necessarily more qualified. In fact, licensing bodies like the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy may have no idea of their qualifications.

Chances are, though, that their employers do check their credentials, since they have some skin in the game and a certain interest in having competent people on the job. A combination of word of mouth and liability concerns almost certainly offers better protection to the public than licenses issued by bureaucrats who have no stake in the quality of their own work, let alone anybody else's.

NEXT: Gun Applications Surge Before Strict New Laws in Maryland

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  1. Kleiner reported that as of 2008, 23 percent of American workers need licenses of some sort to do their jobs, up from five percent in 1950.

    One of the most depressing stats I’ve read here.

    1. I’m so glad licensing is pretty much anathema in the software industry.

      1. As are personal hygiene and interpersonal skills.

        1. Well, Hugh, maybe you’ve never once seen me wash my testicles, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it every Friday.

          (stands uncomfortably close to Hugh)

          1. Hawt.

            (stands uncomfortably close to Epi)

            1. We’re damn close to an orgy here, jesse, we just need at least one more person.

              (stands uncomfortably close to rob)

              1. Im not orgy certified.

                (2000 miles is uncomfortably close to Epi)

                Im going to eat some deep dish pizza to keep him away.

            2. A question to jesse and our other beloved homotarians: How the fuck does this guy have sex with 300 people? (I’m guessing most, if not all of them were men.) Is there something about him that just doesn’t translate into breeder-world? Or is it more due to the fact that you don’t have much choice in rural Missouri?

              Help a brotha out here.

              1. People out cruising aren’t always that picky. He’s also had sex with 300 people since 2003, so his number is probably quite a bit higher.

                Really he’d only need to score once every week and a half. Say he goes out servicing truckers at the local truck stop for a few hours once a month an unattractive guy could easily rack up a number like that and people looking for something on the DL, quick and uncomplicated, might not give a shit what he looks like.

                1. All I can say is that I would never have sex with a female equivalent to his butt-ugliness unless there was much, much, much alcohol involved.


                  1. But there are a lot of guys who would.

      2. Licensing, yes. Certs? Not so much.

        1. ???

          The need for certs is very rare. Most quality employers laugh at the whole concept.

        2. Certs are bullshit and all sensible people know this. The number of places that would turn me away, with my experience, because I never bothered to get a useless, money wasting cert is minuscule.

          1. Exactly.

            I had a phone interview once (Once!) for a training gig for a very low level class. He asked me what certs I had and I laughed. I pointed out that I had taught, multiple times, higher level courses in the same material, and, in fact, had written a training manual for those higher level courses. That didnt matter.

            It turns out, they were basically a cert mill and didnt care about teaching their students but in a significant percentage being able to pass the cert test at the end of the week. Thats not my teaching style.

            I didnt get the gig.

            1. You didn’t want the gig. Anybody who thinks certs are important for any reason (whether they actually think so or just want to sign people up) is an idiot and you would never, ever want to work for or with them.

              1. Of course I didnt. I did want the money, but I was glad they passed.

                Im pretty sure I lost the gig when I laughed at the concept of certs.

          2. Certs are bullshit and all sensible people know this.

            What do you have against retsyn? 😉

            1. Strange. The 80’s commercial seems specifically written as to preclude any sense of sexual chemistry between the two characters. You get the sense by “dinner” the male protagonist means “I’ll buy you a coffee and a sandwich at the local greasy spoon before walking you to the bus stop.”

              Contrast this to the 1968 commercial where you just know that as soon as the screen fads to black those two are going to fuck.

        3. Epi worked hard for his MCSE, damnit!

        4. Eh. Earning a cert is basically required for M$ Partners because you have to have more than 50 certs in your company to be a Gold Partner, which lets you market through M$. I’ve never met a quality technical person who failed to get hired for lack of a cert, or got fired for being resistant. Companies I’ve worked for make it worth your while to get the cert if they need them for selling projects or the like, paying something like $1500/year for you to keep your certification current which takes about 20 hours of non-work time.

    2. Look on the bright side, Snark.

      The people who develop the regulations, perform the certifications, and provide the licenses all have JOBS.

      1. But who licenses the licensors?

        1. Now, *that* is depressing.

        2. Why The People, of course. When we elect politicians who then pass laws written by special interest groups who’s members will later fill the ranks of the regulatory agency created to restrict your freedom save The Children; we are really just regulating ourselves.

    3. 5 percent increase over 68 years is not as bad as what I expected. However, I’d really be interested in a study of the costs involved with complying with this racket compared to 1950.

      1. You misread it. It’s 23 percent now (actually, 2008), up from (not by) to 5 percent in 1950. So it’s between a quadrupling and a quintupling.

        1. That “to”, of course, should be deleted. I had originally typed “as opposed to”, but obviously didn’t delete all of it.

        2. Oh.. fuck. Should have known better anyway..

  2. If they checked everyone equally – then they’d have no power. The power comes from being able to subject opponents to strict standards while letting friends get a pass (see IRS).

  3. I went to a local pizza place and they had a certificate on the wall saying they had a license to have a dumpster. And it was signed by the local bureaucrat with a doctorate in public hygiene. I asked if the “Doctor” had showed up to inspect and was told no, they just sent in a form and check and got the certificate back in the mail.

    1. So, in other words, it’s a dumpster tax.

  4. State Auditor General Debra Davenport and her staff, in their latest report (PDF) on the board, found

    See, libertardians? Without government, you wouldn’t know that government has failed to check the pharmacists it licensed!

  5. I was an unlicensed pharmacist in my dorm ‘lo these many years ago. I don’t think anybody died.

  6. How fucking hard is ti to be a pharmacist now anyway? As far as I can see, the only tricky part is dealing with all the controlled substances bullshit. It’s not like most pharmacists have to mix and prepare things anymore. They have to count pills and put them in a bottle. I guess making that take 20-30 minutes requires some special skills.

    1. Well, you have to be up on your contraindications. A good pharmacist needs to have the knowledge of how different drugs interact with each other to act as a “proofreader” for the doctor’s prescription.

      1. Fill out the narcotics recordkeeping and give injections these days.

        1. Narcotics meaning all of the Schedule drugs and Sudafed.

      2. Yeah, I’m sure that they do a bit more than I give them credit for. I just find it really annoying that for the once every two or three years that I need a prescription filled for antibiotics or pain killers I have to sit there and wait, usually while sick or suffering intense pain from a kidney stone, for half an hour for them to count 20 pills and put them in a bottle.

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