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YC Magazine Libertarian Commentary, June 2011

Bureaucracy Doesn’t Equal Quality

As a Libertarian, I know that laws do not always protect us; they merely get in the way of progress. In May’s column, I discussed the regulatory nightmare that is the slow certificate of need process in SC that determines whether a hospital like the proposed one for Fort Mill will be built. This month I’ll discuss a recent tragedy that might have had a different outcome had we banished the hospital application process in favor of the free market, and how petty licensing laws don’t make a difference.

The Fort Mill Times reported that on Wednesday, April 27th, 3-month-old baby Collan Gibson stopped breathing while in his babysitter Kristyn Shipman Edley’s care. He later died at Rock Hill’s Piedmont Medical Center. Minutes are absolutely crucial when someone stops breathing. Could a shorter ride to a Fort Mill hospital have saved him?

I was dismayed recently when I read the headline in The Fort Mill Times that read, “Daycare where baby died unlicensed.” While this was indeed a fact, the headline was purely sensational. The baby’s ability to breathe did not hinge upon whether or not Ms. Edley paid money for a license.

The only thing that mattered is what occurred in the thirty minutes that lead up to the baby’s death.
If Ms. Edley was somehow responsible, she needs to be held accountable. I am not discounting the fact that this was and is a very tragic story. No one wants to hear about a baby’s death. However, a lack of bureaucratic action is not why this child died, in fact regulation could have stood between him and a chance at life, but we will never know. My point is that business licensing does not protect us from fraud or harm; it merely creates a false sense of security where the standards are often written by people who don’t want competition.

Why do we need licensing laws? We already have all the laws we need. Stealing, murder, force and fraud are all illegal. However, the current laws on the books are too numerous to count. If you think about it, these laws provide a steady stream of income for lawyers, accountants, educators, and bureaucrats, not to mention fee revenue, and an easy regulation trap for anyone who is not in a politician’s good graces. We all, sooner or later, run afoul of some law we never knew existed. The governments’ job is supposed to be to protect us and our rights; unfortunately it often just enriches the ruling class.

Sadly, babies die in their cribs each year due to SIDs, illness, accidents, or other mishaps. Since parents are not “government-approved” caregivers, does that make them any less capable? Of course not, child care has been going on since man has walked the earth, and no license makes anyone any better. The only time we should point a finger is when a parent or caregiver’s actions cause harm, and our justice system is already set up to punish those who do.

When it comes to supervising our children and selecting a caregiver, careful research is a must, but even in the best of circumstances, the law still can’t prevent things from happening. Consumer advocate groups, educational institutions, safety experts, and peer reviewers all could fill the space currently occupied by bureaucratic inefficiency. At least with a true independent review, we can try to avoid undue influence from big government interests, and we’d know that any funds for alternative private licensing options are less likely to be wasted while continuing to raise industry standards.

I mention this subject in particular because my son just so happens to be cared for by an unlicensed caregiver in NC while I am away at work. Our babysitter, a retired nurse, is very experienced and her home is spotless. I chose her over other daycare options near my work in SC because she was more affordable, and I did my research.

North Carolina exempts sitters from needing a license if they care for up to two children. South Carolina has no such exemption, and a local zoning board of all things must approve the application in addition to other quirky requirements. Common sense should tell any parent that they need a caregiver who won’t turn their back on a child and will know what to do in various situations.

The only solution out of this unconstitutional mess is to get back to basics. We have all the laws we need. Do caregivers really need “approval” to work? I thought government wanted to create jobs – not put up barriers. When we finally put the government’s focus back on apprehending violent criminals and punish those who cause harm instead of discouraging tax-revenue generating income, we won’t have so much of a budget issue.

It’s a really good thing that the government doesn’t completely run everything yet. It’s because at every turn they claim sovereign immunity and that any harm they do is not something they are responsible for. At least with a business or an individual you can sue them in civil court and possibly win. Try suing the government one day due to slow or denied treatment when we have a completely centralized healthcare system. Then perhaps true freedom, choice, and competition will matter to you.

Jen is Secretary/Treasurer of the York County Libertarian Party.
More information can be found at http://www.sclp.org and http://www.lp.org

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