Thursday, September 10, 2009

Regulate Us, Please

All the hubbub about appropriate levels of government control of financial institutions and fear of “socialized medicine” reminds me that it isn’t about those things at all. As usual, it’s all about the money.

My first lesson on that score came in a somewhat unusual way in 1955. As part of a news reporting class at the University of Wisconsin, we students were encouraged to volunteer for an assignment as an assistant to a real-world reporter. I went to the Wisconsin State Journal and was taken under the wing of a political reporter who was busy covering a session of the state legislature.

My assignment was to cover a hearing on a bill that would have required chiropractors to have state licenses. The committee killed the bill.

When I turned my story in, I asked my mentor about several things that puzzled me. Representatives of the chiropractors had strongly supported the licensing bill. Representatives of the American Medical Association had just as vigorously opposed it.

“Isn’t it strange that a group enjoying total freedom would want government controls put on them?” I asked. “And why wouldn’t doctors want chiropractors regulated?”

“It’s not strange when you understand a few things,” the veteran reporter said. “That bill has come up for the past three years, and it will again. All doctors, and most common folks, consider chiropractors to be quacks. If the chiropractors can get the state to license them, it will do a lot to legitimatize them as professionals. That will get them more patients. It also will set some standards to keep people with no training or experience from setting up shop. Those two things will increase their stature and their incomes. The MDs don’t want chiropractors hanging up certificates saying they are registered 'doctors of chiropractic.' The MDs want people taking their aches and pains and treatment fees to them, not somebody else.”

The bill did come up again. Eventually, it passed. Chiropractors gained prestige and fatter bank accounts.

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