Designing Cartels

This report examines titling laws, little-known regulations that require people practicing certain professions to gain government permission to use a specific title, such as “interior designer,” to describe their work. Although titling laws receive little attention from the political, policy or research communities, they often represent the first step toward a better-known regulation—occupational licensing, which limits who may practice a trade. In theory, occupational regulations—including titling and licensing laws—are designed to protect the safety and economic interests of consumers. But critics charge they are often nothing but anti-competitive barriers that only benefit those already practicing.

Twenty-two states have some kind of titling law for interior designers, and four states and the District of Columbia also require aspiring designers to acquire government licenses to practice. For decades, powerful factions within the interior design industry have lobbied for legislatures to impose increasingly stringent regulations, arguing that interior design requires a minimum amount of education, experience and examination, codified by the government, to ensure public health, safety and welfare.

The results of this case study, however, indicate that there is no threat to public health, safety or welfare requiring government regulation of the interior design industry. . . .

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