Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A festival of box-ticking on the way

I thought you’d like to think about this while you sun yourselves on the beaches over the summer. It’s something that hasn’t got a lot of press, but will change the lives of many new Zealanders very soon for the worse.

A festival of box-ticking is on its way. A never-ending festival. By 2012, every professional or near-professional in the country will be fighting a torrent of government-produced paperwork. By 2012, if you don’t have a government licence (with all forms completed in triplicate) you won’t be able to

  • build a house
  • design a house
  • sell a house
  • value a house
  • rewire a house
  • lay drains
  • put in plumbing
  • design a structure
  • drive a taxi
  • see a patient
  • dispense pharmaceuticals
  • give financial advice
  • run a classroom
  • teach in a classroom
  • argue a case in court
  • register a title

This list is by no means exhaustive. (Feel free to send more examples; they are legion.)

Understand that this torrent of occupational licensing enveloping the country (the Licensed Building Practitioner and Authorised Financial Advisor (AFA) Regulations are just the latest two) is intended to mandate something called “quality.” Something that people still borrowing $250 million per week would know everything about.

You might think about this cavalcade of occupational licensing when you realise that every illiterate teacher you’ve ever met is a registered teacher; that virtually every leaky home was designed by either a Registered Architect or paid-up Architectural Designer, and built by a registered Master Builder; that virtually everyone about to become a “Licensed Financial Adviser” will know less about economics than they will about these regulations, and was until recently advising their clients to put their nest eggs into places like Hanover, St Laurence, Dorchester and Bridgecorp (and thanks a lot for the commish, boys).

Occupational licensing doesn’t help the best rise to the top—quite the opposite. (The perfumed parasites of subsidised classrooms are proof enough of that.) Instead it simply makes every licensed member of these professions virtually equal to every other, with the “most equal” (the best at ticking boxes) being given positions of authority to dictate standards and procedures to their betters—allowing the box-tickers to mooch off the do-ers, and (on occasions) to loot their would-be customers.

Understand that licensing and form-filling offers no guarantee at all of quality—none whatsoever. All it can ever be is the proxy for quality that makes these things good enough for government work.

In fact, what occupational licensing will do is to push up costs (someone has to pay for all the box ticking); put the grey ones even further into every business in the land (which will drive costs further up and good people further away); and restrict entry to new competitors (which will reduce entrepreneurialism, reduce quality, and—you guessed it—drive up costs even further for would-be customers).

So that’s a win all round, really. Not.

The most egregious of all these iniquities is really the last: the cozy system of “closed professions” that protects inertia and incompetents, and helps keeps out those who might challenge this in any way.

Want to know what it will do to the fees these professionals will charge? Well, just look at the cozy system of the legal “profession,” which couldn’t be more closed, and think just how much your lawyer charges for just sending one letter.

There’s a reason the tallest buildings in town have lawyers’ names on them. It’s one reason they like barriers to entry like this.

Many years ago, a young Norman Kirk famously built his own house (and here I quote from an unlikely source) “with his own sweat and toil, including making his own blocks, a feat now outlawed by the … complex licensed building practitioner regime, which would have required Norm to have a licence for concrete work, a licence for blocklaying, a licence for roofing, a licence for carpentry, and a licence for external plastering… for which he would not have had a hope of paying the cost of a bureaucratic supervisor for its construction.”

The irony here is that the entity whom I quote above was pointing this out only four years ago. Yet now he is part of the government imposing all this upon professionals and their would-be customers.

No wonder so many are already resident in Queensland, with more to join then soon.

Galt help us all.


  1. There is no doubt that they will come up with a stupid law making it a criminal offense to have a broken condom during sex, similar to the charge against Julian Assange in Sweden.

  2. Houses? Yep, plenty of leaky houses around with no one policing standards. House design? Anyone can legally design a house. Sell a house? Of course you can sell your house. Value a house? Doesn't QV do that? and no, I don't think there is anything that prevents a citizen from placing a value on a house. Rewire? Home owners may legally rewire their house. Lay drains? No, for very obvious health reasons. Plumbing? Yes a home owner may install plumbing.... I could go on but there is a limit on character numbers. Ian

  3. Anonymous is quite right that a member of the public can rewire their house, however, it has to be inspected by a tradesman, in order to get a 'COC'(code of compliance).
    From a tradesmans point of view, it's impossible to check every thing, how do you know for instance, that they haven't done a dodgy connection within a wall?
    If you create a 'COC' for the house, which has substandard wiring in it & subsequently kills someone 5 years later, the paperwork leads back to that tradesman, who is possibly in the gun for manslaughter.

  4. drive a car
    own a gun
    get married

    There's 3 more.

  5. Officiate at a wedding but anyone can do a funeral. Go figure.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.