License to harass

“Our country’s broke, and yet they have money and time to harass somebody about a rabbit.”


From the annals of regulation:

● The U.S. Department of Agriculture required a magician in Missouri to get a license for the rabbit he uses in his act. Then it ordered him to file a “disaster plan” for Casey the bunny, to protect it from such potential calamities as fires, floods, and tornadoes.

After the Washington Post made inquiries last week, USDA officials said they were reviewing the disaster-plan rule, even as they defended its “flexibility.” The magician observed: “Our country’s broke, and yet they have money and time to harass somebody about a rabbit.”

● The Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology and the state’s attorney general ordered a popular newspaper columnist, John Rosemond, not to publish in the state. According to an essay in the Wall Street Journal, board members say Mr. Rosemond, a psychologist who writes about parenting, is practicing psychology without a license (he is licensed in North Carolina, but not Kentucky).

Mr. Rosemond is suing the state board and attorney general, claiming their efforts to ban his column amount to unconstitutional censorship of his freedom of speech. The Institute of Justice is representing him in federal court.

● The North Carolina Board of Dietitics/​Nutrition, the Journal essay said, ordered a diabetic blogger to stop advising people to eat a low-carbohydrate diet because he is not a licensed dietitian.

● The Texas State Board of Veterniary Medical Examiners suspended and fined a licensed veterinarian because he gave online advice about pets without examining the animals in person.

You may sense a theme here. Government regulation and occupational licensing are, more often than not, useful and necessary to protect people from bad acts by private interests.

But sometimes, regulation is dumb. We expect bureaucrats and politicians to distinguish needed from stupid. In these cases, the expectation is not met.