The state of New Hampshire licenses not only doctors and such standard tradespeople as beauticians, it also licenses lightning-rod salesmen.
Hawaii licenses tattoo artists, and the Louisiana legislature two years ago considered legislative licensing wig-fitters.
For years now, federal regulatory activities have come under fire. Often to their own advantage, Presidents, legislators, condidates, businessmen, academics, columnists and victims have fanned public resentment with charges of stupidity, waste, anti-competitiveness - you name it.
Yesterday, however, a Justice Department anti-trust official who has made some of those same complaints pulled a skeleton out of the national closet. "State regulation," Joe Sims told a Senate hearing, "is much more pervasive than federal regulation."
His key case in point was state licensing, which now embraces an estimated 100 to 150 callings - and is proliferating.
Louisiana is out front. It alone among the states licenses, among others, decorators, engravers, jewelers and weathermen.
Had the wig-fitter bill passed, Sims said, a chore now routinely done by clerks would have been reserved exclusively to people who had completed 1,500 hours of cosmetology training.
Always, said Sims, a deputy assistant attorney general, the justification for licensing is that it shields the public from potential abuses.
Actually, he told the Senate Small Business subcommittee on monopoly, licensing frequently imposes restrictions that "mean less competition, and less compettition means poorer services at higher prices."
Another witness, Georgetown University's Selma Mushkin, termed regualtion "a hidden tax on the American consumer, a levy silently imposed by federal, state and local governments."
In Louisiana, the Wig-fitter bill was simply an effort to monopolize the business for cosmetologists, and it would have led inexorably to inflated prices. Sims told subcommittee chairman Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.).
The senator, the Federal Trade Commission's Darius W. Gaskins, Sims and licensing specialist Dr. Benjamin Shimberg of Princeton, N.J., studded the hearing with examples of restrictive practices that inhibit price competition.
Nelson emphasized evidence developed earlier on how states have eroded price competition in the retailing of eyeglasses, particularly by restricting advertising.
For essentially the same eyeglasses in the District of Columbia, he said, the Veterans Administration pays about $7, the local Medicaid program about $30 and the average consumer "anywhere from $50 upward." Yet, he said, with advertising helping to make the area price-competitive, the same glasses "are currently advertised at retail for prices below $20."
Gaskins, director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics, told of a 1974 bureau study showing that licensing of television repairmen tends to increase their prices.
For minor repairs done in the District, which had no form of regulation, prices averaged 20 per cent less than in Louisiana, which licensed repairmen, Gaskins testified. But, he said, the fraud rate - 50 per cent - was the same for both.
Sims told of a technique used by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants: prohibiting competitive bidding as incompatible with professional ethics. The government contended the prohibition was anti-competitive and sued. To settle, the institute ended the ban, conceding that "submission of price quotations is not unethical . . ."
Accountants in several states then did an end run. They had the boards that putatively regulate them adopt the ban or even a tighter version, assuming that the boards are immunized from government antitrust suits.
Last November, however, the Anti-trust Division sued the Texas Board of Accountancy to challenge its rule against competitive bidding. The board's members are all full-time, practicing accountants. They draw no state salary. Any rule they propose becomes effective only if ratified by a majority of the state's accountants.
Shimberg testified that "the woods are full of rules that have nothing to do with protecting the public," such as irrelevant age, education and residency requirements that bar qualified potential competitors, especially from other states' failure rates in licensing exams faithfully reflect employment - rising when jobs are scare, falling when they are plentiful.