A regulatory panel in Washington, D.C., could vote this week on a series of new licensing requirements for personal trainers, supposedly in an effort to promote public health and safety through government nannyism.
But a closer look at the panel charged with making the new rules exposes the real reason why regulatory boards flex their muscles with regulatory schemes like this one.
As Watchdog reported last week, Council of the District of Columbia recently empowered an obscure regulatory panel, the Board of Physical Therapy, to create a new set of licensing rules for personal trainers working in the nation’s capital. A vote on the new rules is expected to take place at the city council’s meeting Tuesday night.
The exact rules are still unclear, but all personal trainers would be required to register with the mayor’s office and pay a yet-to-be-determined fee. An early draft of the rules would have required that all personal trainers have a four-year degree.
Like many licensing and regulatory schemes, this effort by the city government in D.C. is being pitched as being in the name of public health and safety — but there’s really a more sinister motivation at play.
Personal training has been an explosive area of growth for entrepreneurs. There are more than 241,000 fitness trainers and aerobics instructors in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Washington, D.C., metro area has more than 5,800 people working in the industry, the third highest total for any metropolitan area in the nation. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, an industry group, the United States has more than 34,400 health clubs, a 28 percent increase over the past decade.
All those personal trainers are competition for physical therapists.
The Washington, D.C., Board of Physical Therapists, which is writing the new rules, just happens to be composed of five members — four of which are required by statute to be licensed physical therapists.
That board has now been given the power to regulate — potentially even to shut down — businesses that are in direct competition with the board’s own members.
That’s not government of the people, by the people or for the people.
It’s a niche special interest using the regulatory power of the government to build a protective wall around its own interests, at the expense of other business owners and the general public. It’s a cartel.
There’s no shortage of evidence that licensing requirements stifle the growth of new businesses and protect entrenched interests. That’s not a side effect of protecting the public’s health and safety; that’s the reason why these rules exist. Protecting the public’s health and safety — if licensing rules even do that, which is a matter up for debate — is merely the marketing strategy.
Even the Obama Administration, which has no shortage of love for government regulations, recently acknowledged that licensing schemes are a bad idea. In a report released in July, the White House warned that excessive occupational licensing rules were limiting the growth of jobs and economic opportunity. It encouraged state and local governments to cut back on the red tape surrounding some professions.
The city government in D.C. apparently didn’t read that report.
When and if personal trainers are swept into the maelstrom of government regulation in Washington, D.C., they will have plenty of company. According to data compiled by The Economist, the city already requires a license for at least 40 percent of all jobs, including interior designers and tour guides.
That’s right, you can’t point to the Lincoln Memorial and explain the significance of the larger-than-life marble man seated inside it without first getting permission from bureaucrats.
And soon, you won’t be able to help someone sweat off a few pounds without one either.
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