Give me interior design licensing, or give me death
The Economist had a recent piece by “Schumpeter” on the high proportion of professions that are regulated/licensed, on a state by state basis, in the United States. Flower arranging, hair braiding, manicurists. You name it, it’s regulated somewhere.
Now I am one of those nanny-staters who actually believe that we need some regulation and consumer protection. Completely unfettered business gives us poison toys from China, exploding Pintos, and the Love Canal.
Yet it seems as if something as eye-of-the-beholder, and do-no-harm as flower arranging doesn’t require all that much by way of licensing and regulation. As Bob Dylan told us years ago, you don’t need a weatherman to know the way the wind blows. And you don’t need a professional florist to stick stems in an oasis in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Other professions, especially one where the motto first, do no harm should apply – electrician, dentist – I’d just as soon see licensed, thank you.
One licensing bizarrity that Schumpeter called out was Florida’s licensing of commercial interior designers. (No license is needed for residential interior designers, so you can use Hilda next door to do you up if you like her flair with coral and zebra prints.)
Florida is one of only three states to license interior designers – the others are Nevada and Louisiana. (Now that I think about it, Nevada probably should make designers get a license. Can you imagine what Nevada would look like if amateurs could design interiors?) To tear down some bureaucracy, and to free things up for new business formation, Florida did try to pass legislation deregulating commercial interior design.
Not surprisingly, those who benefit from restricting the pool of those who can design office space and hotel lobbies, i.e., the cartel composed of those who already have licenses, came out of the decorator woodwork to oppose the repeal. And they won. The legislature caved, and one still needs a license to practice this specialized craft.
As reported in the Miami Herald, the designers had some pretty interesting things to say when they importuned Florida’s worthy lawmakers to leave the regulation in place.
“Buildings do not burn. Interiors do,” Gail Griffin, a professor at Miami Dade College’s School of Architecture and Interior Design, told the House Appropriations committee Wednesday.
In other words, an unlicensed interior designer might well paper those office walls with dangling strips of newsprint that had been soaked in gasoline, and accent the décor with piles of kindling, matchbooks, and campfire instructions.
Bad things can happen to good buildings. Has nobody seen – and heeded – The Towering Inferno. Still…
I would like to have witnessed Ms. Griffin’s full testimony, which included this:
“Do you know the color schemes that affect your salivation, your autonomic nervous system?” she said. “You don’t even have correct seating. And somebody chose that for you.”
Personally, I was not aware that color schemes affect salivation. I thought that things that smelled good did. But I will start trying to become more observant about what color combos cause me to slobber and which ones give me dry mouth. Is it too obvious that it would be greens and blues that cause you to drool, while a desert color scheme produces cotton mouth?
As for those legislators not having correct seating, why the State of Florida must have broken a law and gone with an amateur designer, like Hilda next door. Or maybe they just let an admin negotiate the whole thing with the chair manufacturer.
One designer – of the 90 who spoke at the hearing – had an even more compelling reason for not deregulating designers.
“Part of my job is to ensure the finishes that I select cannot be made into weapons,” Terra Sherlock, a licensed interior designer from Tallahassee, told lawmakers. “We do that in jails, and we do that in schools.”
Fabrics don’t kill people. People who turn fabrics into weapons kill people.
And speaking of dangerous fabrics…wait there’s more. Interior designer Michelle Earley made the case for her colleagues as near medical practitioners, who are able to:
…avoid fabrics that contribute to the spread of hospital-acquired infections.
“By not allowing interior designers to be specialists and focus on the things they do, what you’re basically doing is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year,” she said.
If 88,000 lives in Florida alone could be saved by licensing interior designers, what are we waiting for? This is even more than the 20,000 or so lives saved nationwide by wearing seatbelts each year. I had no idea.
I am writing my state representative forthwith and ask that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts joins the rank of those progressive titans - Florida, Nevada, and Louisiana - and start regulating commercial interior designers. Lives are at stake here. Oh, the humanity!
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