Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stop Me, Before I Engineer Again!

This post is based upon the local newspaper's article: "Citizen Activist Grates On State Over Traffic Signals" found here.

Here's the summary of the story.  In North Raleigh, the city is going to widen a few streets and some nearby residents would like additional traffic signals to ease the new traffic patterns.  The group petitioned the City Council.  The City Council agreed and said if the DOT agrees, then the signals will go up.

The DOT said that the traffic conditions did not warrant new signals.  So, the residents put together a report for the DOT and not only did the DOT reject it, the Chief Engineer for State DOT said that the report contained "engineering-quality work in a report that was not signed by a licensed professional."

"When you start applying the principles for trip generation and route assignment, applying judgments from engineering documents and national standards, and making recommendations," that's technical work a licensed engineer would do, the chief engineer said.

Then the DOT has asked the Engineers Licensing Board to investigate the residents who wrote the report!  The Executive Director of the board said that the investigation will take 3 to 4 months.  He said there is a potential for violation if DOT and the public were misled by "engineering-quality work"- even if the authors did not claim to be engineers.

If the author of the report, a resident who simply wants a traffic light, is found to have practiced engineering without a license, the director said, the likely action would be ... drum roll please ... a letter telling him not to do it again.

How much money are we going to waste pursuing this mockery of justice?  All to assuage a bruised ego and to protect this fiefdom?

In North Carolina, we have more than 183 professions that require a license.  There are some doozies on this list like: Cemetary Sales Contractor, Chick Dealer, Boxing/Kickboxing/"Toughman" Promoter, Egg Dealer, Electrologist, Embalmer, Fee-Based Practicing Pastoral Counselor, Fruit and Vegetable Handler, Histologic Technician, Librarian, Public Weighmaster, Recreational Therapist, Senior Parachute Rigger, and so on.  You can find them listed here.

And the list continues to grow because later this year, a license will be needed if you want to braid hair for money.

The state carves out these little areas of benefit for special groups, all to the detriment of the general public.  Each of these licenses creates a mini-fiefdom, a protected class.  These licenses do not protect the customer.  They protect the producer from competition. 

Competition is the consumers' best friend.  It is high time to repeal these licenses and open the economy to competition.  Let the consumer determine who the best egg dealer is.  Let the market determine who the best Fruit and Vegetable Handler is. 

Or to put it another way, do you think that we can really live in a society with an unlicensed librarian?  I'm thinking, "Yes, we can!"


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