Supreme Court

Leading Economists Urge SCOTUS to Reject Occupational Licensing Abuse



Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. At issue is whether that state board—which is comprised almost entirely of licensed dentists—engaged in illegal anticompetitive practices by preventing non-dentists from performing teeth-whitening services. Last week, a group of 45 leading economists filed a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court to rule against the state board. "When self-interested economic actors—such as licensed dentists—are given the power to influence or, as in this case, actually write the rules by which others will compete with them," the brief observes, "they behave as self-interested private actors, rather than as stewards of the public interest."

Meanwhile, at The Washington Post, George Will argues that this case provides the Supreme Court with a rare opportunity to champion economic liberty against government overreach. "If the court directs a judicial scowl at North Carolina's State Board of Dental Examiners," Will writes, "the court will thereby advance a basic liberty—the right of Americans to earn a living without unreasonable government interference."

For more on North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, click here.

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  1. a group of 45 leading economists

    How does a brief filed by IJ get interpreted as “a group of 45 leading economists”?

  2. I’m no fan of occupational licensure, but is there a legal reason it should matter that the state board is made up people with an interests matters? It seems silly to me to say that it would be okay if the board were a bunch of bureaucrats or lawyers.

    1. I think this case is about the exception to the antitrust laws for state actions. They are trying to argue that the action by the board isn’t really a state action because it’s not a board of bureacrats looking out for the public interest. It’s actually just a bunch of dentists looking out for their own private interests.

  3. Amazing how many people don’t understand that occupational licensing regulations are just tools used by guilds to artificially jack up the value of their services by limiting competition.

    That aside, I’ve yet to hear a convincing reason why we can’t let people just choose to do business with unlicensed providers of goods and services.

    1. Houses will burn down and people will die if unlicensed interior decorators are let lose upon the unsuspecting civilians.

  4. Related topic:

    Was taking the Lost River Cave boat tour yesterday. From the 30s to 1960 there was a nightclub in the entrance. My parents went on their first date there, in fact. It was so popular that the other tavern owners in town got a city ordinance passed banning swrving of alcohol below street level.

    Due to the karst structure that led to the caves, there are virtually no basements in Bowling Green. This effected exactly one location.

    1. What kind of justification could they come up with to pretend justification for this kind of thing?

      It baffles me that people on the left can’t see that it is business/government collusion that is the real problem.

      1. I think many of the smarter ones do, their solutions are just misguided. They see the same problems but believe the solution is campaign finance reform among other things.

      2. The tavern owners bribed them.

        Seems justification enough.

        The tour guide said the ordinance was passed improperly and eventually went away, but it did its job.

        1. After the nightclub shutdown, it became a illegal dump for about 30 years. They pulled about 50 tons of trash out in the early 90s.

          They do events in it again, its pricey to rent, we looked at it for our wedding reception. They were setting up for a wedding reception Sunday night when we were taking the tour Sunday afternoon.

  5. I can’t imagine that the SC will overturn a state law that is well within the state’s power to make. No matter what the justices opinion on free markets and competition may be, they can’t revoke this power to make these kinds of laws from a state.

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