By David Tulis
A bill coming up in the Tennessee general assembly would put more professional callings into the hands of state government.
Tennessee already owns numerous professions which is allows men like you to enjoy as special grants, as privileges. These callings include physician, accountant and attorney.
But a civil engineer who holds a state house seat, John Tidwell, in a district 50 miles west of Nashville, is proposing adding people in 19 more callings to the state’s plantation. They are security guards, locksmiths, real estate appraisers, auctioneers, funeral directors and embalmers, barbers, contractors, subcontractors, limited license electricians, limited license plumbers, land surveyors, cosmetologists, home inspectors, home improvement contractors, private investigators, polygraph examiners, soil scientists, geologists and alarm qualifying agents.
First off, what is a state license?
Local economy in Chattanooga and other towns and cities in Tennessee prospers best if men and women take full ownership of their callings and professions, versus having to rent them. A license is permission to do any act that would be illegal or a crime if done without the license. A license is a favor from an imperium to the commoners, the landholders, serfs or slaves to enjoy the liberty of an act or manner of trade.
A political rival of Mr. Tidwell, Marc Gravitt, complains of the measure and insists that he supports “ legislation that grows our economy and creates jobs while cutting spending in Nashville.” Adds Marc Gravitt, a Republican, “It’s time our elected leaders across the state tighten their belts, just like the small businesses and families throughout this state have already done.”
We are so familiar with licensing regimes that we don’t object to them in principle, but only in light of their cost. The free market, since it is premised on morality and strengthened by Christian virtues, demands a better defense. It expects not a complaint about a F$400 fee, but the very idea that the state makes illegal a lawful calling, then allows it under license as a privilege.
I describe the license creating process as having two steps. But does the general assembly bother? Does it in one vote make a calling illegal, and in a second vote legalize it under licensure. No. It pretends to make it illegal in the act of requiring a license in one easy step allowed by the state supreme court in an 1895 decision (Burke v. Memphis). “A positive prohibition by law of the exercise of an occupation or business, or the power to prohibit, is not essential to create it a privilege; the requirement of a license is itself a prohibition to act without without it.” Another ruling suggests the legislature didn’t have to exercise police powers to ban an occupation first as criminal — before reversing itself and freeing it under license (Jenkins v. Erwin, 1872).
State economy vs. local economy
So there. This ruling is how the state markets itself, soft-pedals presumptuous claims against Christian laborers and entrepreneurs who are under God’s orders to work and produce, lest they not eat and lest their master return from a far country and they have nothing more than his mina wrapped in a handkerchief. Man has a duty to God to labor for his keep, to increase his estate. Is God happy when kings, magistrates and administrators step in and demand that the people exercise their callings as favors granted by mere mortals? The state is allowed to make something illegal and a crime without having to bare its fangs and impose a pain upon the people and their economy. It can rob without the appearance of the pistol muzzle in the small of the back. It kidnaps, but without fuss. Quietly.
The licensing of professions has its origins in protection of local economies by counties that were given power from the state to regulate peddlers, traders and merchants. This class of people profited off of being middle men. They were sometimes unscrupulous, invited all the more toward fraud and wickedness because these were perpetrated upon strangers. Licenses were demanded of itinerant businesses who had no local connection and took no interest in the people to whom they sold.
Tennessee may have come out as the fifth freest state in the union in the Mercatus study. But an 1870s opinion that opened the door for tremendous mischief gives virtual blanket power to the general assembly to call a calling a privilege. This miscreancy will not be changed unless it is challenged in court.
Source: “Gravitt Opposes ‘Privilege Tax Bill In The Tennessee House,” Chattanoogan.com, Feb. 19, 2014. House Bill 2420 by Tidwell. Tennessee Code Annotated, title 67