A Florida lawmaker is proposing to place individuals who want to practice music therapy, the use of music production or singing as a form of physical or psychological therapy, under the regulation of state bureaucrats.
State Sen. Jeff Clemens’ (D-Lake Worth) bill would require individuals to complete 1,200 hours, or 50 days, of education and training and pay license renewal fees to a newly created Board of Music Therapists.
Big Business, Big Bucks
Ari Bargil, an attorney with the Institute for Justice’s Florida office, says the bill does more to promote a national lobbyist group’s interests than to protect consumers.
“It seems to me that the point of the bill is to sort of cartelize the musical therapy industry at the behest of a national organization, the American Musical Therapy Association,” Bargil said. “What this effectively does is it creates a barrier to entry for people who want to do this in any sort of medical setting and protects the people who already have these licenses or will be getting these licenses from people who don’t.”
Helping Therapists, Not Patients
Bargil says rogue music therapists aren’t a serious threat to consumers.
“I haven’t seen any data that would suggest that the unlicensed practice of musical therapy has led to any harms to patients or society in general to justify a license,” Bargil said. “I’m certain that probably the only people this is helping are the musical therapists themselves.”
Restricting Supply, Raising Prices
Timothy Terrell, an associate professor of economics at Wofford University, says occupational licensing regulations have few benefits for consumers.
“One of the things that would probably happen after they get licensure status is that the prices they charge would rise,” Terrell said. “If you are limiting the number of people who can get into the profession, then they can charge more because there aren’t going to be as many of them. Basically, they are trying to limit the number of musical therapists to protect themselves.”
Occupational licensing laws are an example of the government telling consumers what’s best for them, Terrell says.
“Licensure uses the power of the state to keep people out,” Terrell said. “Instead of letting the consumer decide who’s a good therapist or not or who has been very effective or not, you’re relying on this not-entirely-transparent process of licensure.”
Industry insiders have an interest in keeping people out of their “club,” Terrell says.
“You’re letting the people already in the profession decide who gets to come into the profession,” Terrell said. “You’re creating a kind of club. They, of course, have an interest in keeping that club small. This is a limitation on the freedom of the consumer.”
Kimberly Morin ([email protected]) writes from Brentwood, New Hampshire.
Morris M. Kleiner and Robert T. Kudrle, “Does Regulation Affect Economic Outcomes?: The Case Of Dentistry,” Journal of Law and Economics: https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/does-regulation-affect-economic-outcomes-case-dentistry/