Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death!,” was actually about occupational licensing. Read on…
Before the so-called “Progressives” took over our schools, you might have learned what prompted Patrick Henry to give his famous “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia in 1775. It became the rallying cry for The American Revolution, which should make it quite an important topic, but one no longer taught in our nation’s schools. History is being recast so quickly by these “Progressives,” as they call themselves, that it is worth putting in the record what actually happened before more statues are destroyed and the truth about this individuals is forever buried.
Patrick Henry witnessed a man—a minister— tied to a whipping post in Culpepper, Virginia in March of that year (1775). He was being beaten within an inch of his life. Henry—a self-taught attorney—was quoted as saying, “When they stopped beating him, I could see the bones of his rib cage. I turned to someone and asked what this man had done to deserve such a beating as this.”
He learned that the British had made it a crime in the colonies to preach without a license, and this man, along with 12 other ministers, were jailed for refusing to accept that anyone—including government—had the authority to turn a natural right into a government-granted privilege.
In the 1950s, only 5% of the American workforce were subjected to the tyranny of occupational licensing. These were mostly in professions such as medicine and law, where the practitioners lobbied (in effect….bribed) government officials to allow their private monopolies such as The American Medical Association, and The Bar Associations, respectively, to control who was allowed to practice or teach their trade.
Today, 30% of the American workforce is subjected to this tyranny—usually by private organizations operating under color of state law—acting to both control and restrict those professions. Occupational licensing has become epidemic, stifling even menial jobs while increasing the cost of services to the public for no cognizable benefit in return.
Some states have taken licensing to such extremes that not only electricians and some reasonable trades are restricted by the state in the name of public safety, but also travel guides, realtors, locksmiths, ballroom dance instructors, interior designers, upholsterers, manicurists, and barbers, to name a few.
And these outrageous laws are aggressively policed and enforced. Take the case of Isis Brantley, who recounted how in 1997 “seven law-enforcement officers barged into my building and hand-cuffed me to go to jail for braiding [hair] without a cosmetology license.” It took her almost ten years to be heard by a Texas court, which ruled that this was unconstitutionally restrictive—not because the state-sponsored monopoly was illegal, as should have been the court's ruling—but that Ms. Brantley had not been “grandfathered” in as a teacher of this trade when the unconstitutional law was passed. Such “licensing” by private monopolies can find no basis in the U.S. Constitution, yet this restrictive practice abounds in our nation today.
Trade guilds once served the public to assure that its members were the best in each profession, but they now simply restrict and hamper. As example, the year before the American Medical Association successfully lobbied Congress to become the licensing authority for doctors in the late 1920s, the United States had the lowest health care cost in the world, and was considered by many to have its best.
Once the monopoly could limit entry into the trade, however, the cost of medical care doubled within four years, and then began its upward climb to become the most expensive in the world while dropping to 32nd place in quality of care (The Economist).
Next, The American Medical Association) lobbied Congress to control what could be taught as medicine in the early 1930s including which institutions could teach it. After being granted this additional power, the A.M.A.’s first act was to refuse licensing to any of the several black colleges and universities where medicine was then being taught. It would be more than a generation before any significant number of black citizens were again trained as physicians, thanks to the medical monopoly’s control and racial bias.
So what benefit have We the People gotten from monopoly control of medicine (or any other for that matter)? Absolutely none. To continue with the medical example, The United States now has 1) the highest incidence of medical malpractice litigation in the world, so we are certainly no safer, 2) the number of doctors have been artificially limited for decades to keep the incomes of A.M.A. physicians and health care facilities the highest and most profitable on the planet while artificially driving up cost, and 3) many very worthwhile cheaper, alternative medical practices have been squashed or outlawed to prevent competition to the juggernaut.
And the lawyer’s monopoly? Are we better off because of them? Well, here are some facts so you can decide for yourself: 1) the mandatory Sixth Amendment trial by jury “in all criminal prosecutions” is now held in less than 5% of such cases, thanks to the lawyers’ lobby and its refusal to follow/defend the U.S. Constitution—Why?—because it is far less work for all of them than following the law, and they have--by law--eliminated any challengers to their malfeasance, 2) with only 5% of the world’s population, the “land of the free” now has 25% of its prisoners—because lawyers no longer defend, they “plea bargain” sending their clients to prison instead, and 3) a recent Columbia University compilation of 5,760 capital cases—almost every one over a 23 year period—proved an error rate of 82%. That’s right. 8 out of 10 times, they get it wrong. (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/summary-columbia-university-study-prof-james-s-liebman).
There was a “licensed” lawyer sitting on the bench in a black robe who sent each of these wrongfully convicted persons to their death; there was a “licensed” attorney sitting in the prosecutor’s chair who wrongfully sought that sentence of death to promote his or her career; and there was a “licensed” advocate whose job it was to prevent these injustices—yet all of them conspired to allow it to happen, even when the outcome of their incredibly poor performance (or uncaring) was death for their victim. Could any other profession fail 8 out of 10 times and still stay in business? Only a government-sanctioned monopoly could survive such gross negligence and inconceivable failure of performance.
Bar Associations serve only to protect these incompetents, with absolutely no discernible public service in return. Where are the “self-taught” patriot attorneys like Patrick Henry when we really need them? In answer, I suppose they are in jail for “practicing law without a license.” That’s where.
If a citizen can pass a state exam to become a doctor, electrician, or those very few trades which may require approval as a matter of real public safety (obviously not including the practice of law), perhaps there is a case to be made for it, but private associations should only be allowed to restrain or control the trade itself.
Do we really need state or federal protection from bad haircuts, sloppy nail jobs or lousy dance steps? I don’t think so—and I’m hoping this president—the one they all like to hate who does not owe any of these monopoly association lobbies anything—will eliminate their hold on America as part of his jobs agenda to get our nation back to opportunity for all, rather than just for the few—or those who can afford a license.
Howell W. Woltz
Author, “The Way Back to America: 10 steps to restore constitutional government in the United States,” “Justice Denied: the United States v. The People,” and international bestseller, “Justice Restored: 10 steps to end mass incarceration in America.”
Born in North Carolina and educated at the University of Virginia, Wake Forest University and Caledonian University in Scotland, Howell now lives in Warsaw, Poland with his wife, Dr. Magdalena Iwaniec-Woltz. Howell is the European Correspondent for The Richardson Post and Chairman of The International Centre for Justice.