I've had 10 years to think about this question … With a few misgivings, I conclude that the correct answer is YES. I think is makes good business sense to be licensed.
In early November 2002 I mailed in my application
to be licensed by the State of Texas as a Professional Geoscientist.
As a petroleum geologist and businessman practicing in the private
sector, I didn't really need to, being exempt under the Texas licensure
statute, which applies primarily to geoscientists practicing in
the environmental, water resources and engineering fields.
Nor am I philosophically very sympathetic with the
idea that state regulation is a reliable protector of the public
trust. After all, doctors, lawyers and engineers have been licensed
in Texas for years, but we still see frequent media reports about
mistreated patients and clients — and consequential malpractice
Most faithful readers of this column have, by now,
recognized my faith in free markets as generally being more efficient
than government in solving such problems. Crummy doctors, crooked
lawyers and incompetent engineers will, sooner or later, find themselves
out of business as their tarnished reputations get around.
Trouble is, sometimes it takes too long — and trusting
clients can get badly hurt in the meantime.
Following Adam Smith, I do recognize that there are
a few things government can do better than the free market — protect
the borders, keep the public order, maintain the currency, regulate
interstate commerce, serve as the last safety net for the down-and-out.
Does state licensure of the geologic profession also
belong on that list?