Design flaws

Nevada has a poorly structured regulatory system.

By Patrick R. Gibbons
  • Thursday, November 20, 2008

 "Bob" – we'll call him – is an interior decorator, insofar as he's decorated nearly a dozen different apartment homes over the years, living in different states.  

Bob's style is relatively modest – Target, Wal-Mart, Dillard's and second-hand stores are his inspiration.

At his current place of residence, Bob has managed to put his living room together with a Target bookshelf, a leather reclining sofa from Dillard's and red Bed Bath & Beyond drapes, plus a lovely brown and red throw rug that ties in the curtains with the couch and bookshelf.

A metal baker's rack serves as his TV/stereo stand, and sits next to an old, gold-colored, hand-me-down lamp from the 1960s that has been updated with a modern shade and an energy-saving light bulb.

With a little patience and an eye for what "goes together" (Bob has learned that items in his apartment do not have to match exactly; a rug or accent wall can tie the various colors of a room together), Bob has been able to create a really nice living space for just a few dollars.

Bob also has a tip to offer others as they put their own homes together:  Those looking for something other than what one could find at Wal-Mart or Target could consider second-hand stores, which regularly offer high-quality wood pieces that need just a little TLC, time permitting.

But while Bob is happy to give this interior decorating advice, he can't call himself an interior decorator and sell his services. Doing so would be illegal in Nevada.

That's right.  The Nevada statute governing residential and interior decorating and architects is nearly 10,000 words long and states, in part:

No person may practice: ... As a registered interior designer or use the title of registered interior designer, in this State without having a certificate of registration issued to him pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

One can imagine Bob's first day in jail.

"What are you in for?" says a gruff, balding man whose arms are littered with tattoos.

"I told some people they should paint an accent wall to match their red duvet," says Bob.

Unregulated interior decorators running amok in Nevada must have been quite a menace before this law was passed. After all, the statute claims that regulating interior decorators is necessary to "safeguard life, health and property, and to promote the public welfare by improving the quality of human environmental design."

Yes, maybe a licensed interior decorator would know that a magenta accent wall would go with a red duvet much better than a cyan or mauve accent wall.  But who cares?

The ridiculous and outright absurd nature of such regulations has one single purpose, and it has nothing to do with protecting citizens from valances that don't match the drapes. This type of regulation serves only to increase the cost of becoming an interior decorator so the supply of decorators and competition will be limited.

A limited supply of interior decorators (who, by the way, have to go through a costly and lengthy licensing process that involves obtaining that license from those who would be their competitors should the license be approved) creates limited competition, which means the price of those services goes up.

Thus, government regulation serves to increase the profits of the existing, privileged interior decorators.  Even in professions where it appears that the purpose of regulation really is to protect consumers from harm, like medical care, the regulation has the same costly effect. The more costly the regulation, the more harm is done to Nevada's citizens, especially the poor.

Whatever the intent behind them, regulations rarely protect the consumer. The hepatitis outbreak or drug prescription problems in Southern Nevada should serve as a reminder that regulations are unlikely to protect us, because those being regulated are usually also the ones doing the regulating.

Consumer safety under our current system of regulation is no better than it would be under a system where private companies gave exams to their own employees to test their integrity and skills. The difference is that the latter approach would make services cheaper for consumers.

What are called health and welfare safety regulations only serve to enrich those being regulated.  If Nevada's lawmakers are interested in strengthening our economy and improving the purchasing power of all Nevadans – especially the poor – they should eliminate ridiculous licensing and regulatory laws.

They can start with those targeting people like Bob the Decorator.  After all, has anyone yet heard of someone dying because an interior decorator recommended an étagère instead of an armoire?

Patrick R. Gibbons is a researcher at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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