Deregulatory Madness in Michigan

Apr 17, 2012

I think I'd like to be a doctor. Physicians generally make a lot more than I do, and I could certainly use the extra income.

I have read several biographies of famous figures in medicine, and know how important it is to wash your hands a lot.

Besides, I once spent most of a day with the famed heart surgeon Denton Cooley years ago. So, I think I'll ask the state to waive the rules while I start delivering babies and removing tumors.

Okay. You may think this idea is nuts. And that's because it is nuts. But don't worry - the closet I'll ever come to practicing medicine is using my teeth to pry the lid off the aspirin bottle.

But the scary thing is that I'm not all that sure the Snyder administration feels that way.

No, they aren't talking about allowing people like me to practice medicine in their garage. Not yet, anyway.

But yesterday, the state Office of Regulatory Reinvention recommended abolishing occupational boards and essentially, ceasing to regulate and license at least eighteen occupations.

A few of these may actually not need regulation; the world will probably not collapse if auctions aren't run by a state licensed and regulated auctioneer. But it seems clear to me that most of the occupations involved very much need oversight.

One of them is speech-language pathology. When I was a child I had enormous difficulty pronouncing some things, including "s" and "th" sounds, but was straightened out by a wonderful speech therapist at my school.

Thank you, Mr. Slaker, wherever you are.

The mother of my godchildren is a speech-language therapist who works with adult victims of accidents and strokes and helps restore their power to communicate. She went to graduate school at the University of Michigan to do this. Three years ago, the state became one of the last in the nation to begin licensing speech pathologists.

But now, the state is suggesting that isn't necessary. A report submitted by an advisory committee to the governor said that it, quote, "could not identify any clear harm to the public if they were treated by an unlicensed speech pathologist."

Rob Nederhood, Deputy Director of the Office of Regulatory Reinvention, seems to be a clear believer in the classic libertarian theory that the free market will solve all our problems. He told the Gongwer News Service "If there's a bad actor out there, their reputation would suffer and you have legal action for that."

Well, that's swell. But I'd rather not have to spend an hour on Google to make sure I won't die if I buy a package of chicken.

Steven Hilfinger, the state licensing and regulatory affairs director, hinted at what's really going on. He said the study found "that for each occupation that a state regulated, the occupation would experience a decrease in the rate of job growth by twenty percent on average."

Well, I'm sure that's probably right.

And if that means the untrained and incompetent are kept out of speech pathology or respiratory care, another candidate for deregulation, well, here's to slower job growth.

There are certainly cases of over-regulation and bureaucratic incompetence. But legally enforced standards have helped save and enhance the lives of us all. When it comes to regulation, common sense would be an uncommonly good idea.