Minority Opinions

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Licensing the Ubiquitous

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In local culture, everyone is expected to drive.  Nothing highlighted that more than when I let my license lapse for a couple of years.  (I had moved from another state, and had no car, but the licensing process as documented seemed to require a driving test in my own vehicle.  That it didn’t was a welcome surprise.)  Using any other form of documentation invites even more suspicion and odd looks than the simple fact of not owning a car.

Fortunately, we also expect all drivers to have had proper training.  Far too many people are killed by vehicles as it is; I shudder to think what would happen if we just let everyone behind the wheel as soon as they were legally old enough.  Yet somehow, we do just that for several other dangerous activities.  Perhaps the difference is the number of innocent bystanders who could get hurt.  A new driver, after all, is less likely to kill himself than the child he didn’t notice playing in the street.

Similar could be said for other licensed activities.  Several professions, for example; doctors in particular could get people killed without the proper training, and have been impersonated by quacks and charlatans for centuries.  A bogus lawyer, engineer, or even car mechanic could get you into deeper trouble than you started with; each has a licensing body in various principalities, but may be unregulated in others.  Schools and universities, or their individual programs, can be accredited by various standards organizations; failure to do so can lead to leaving alumni without job potential.

Yet there are other important activities that aren’t commonly licensed.  I have a license to be a parent, complete with mandatory training, but we let almost anybody raise their own children as long as they aren’t obviously horrible at it.  Some poor children end up with lasting damage from poor parenting, while others simply emerge completely unprepared for the realities of life.  Would it be better to offer, or even require, training for every new or potential parent?  Would it be just?  Could we at least offer community-sponsored child care by highly trained, well paid tutors?  Or at least legally recognize that proper childcare is not an unskilled labor?

We could go even earlier, to sex itself.  Some form of sex education is routinely offered in this country, but only with consent of a legal guardian.  Even at that, it usually misses a few critical components, such as identification of a bad relationship before it gets to that point, or what a woman really needs out of it.  Some programs even omit descriptions of contraceptive measures, much less their limitations, leading the unlearned teens toward the route of maximum panic: reckless abortion.  How many fewer children would be conceived if people were led through the hard decisions beforehand?

In some cases, even that activity has an earlier stage: alcohol consumption.  This one is perhaps the worst of all for a form of regulation that can lead to abuse.  You’re not allowed to touch the stuff until a certain age, at which point it’s suddenly no holds barred.  This gets compounded by certain religious groups who espouse abstinence without explanation, leaving children with no example of responsible drinking, while television and advertising frequently play up appealing aspects.  Is it any wonder, then, that a certain number of college students kill themselves by binging?  What if one needed a license to purchase alcohol, with its own training classes?

At some point, yes, the number of licenses could get ridiculous.  They really could be tied into one card, though, as long as relevant agencies had connections to a state database that stored who is licensed for what.  That would also allow for quick and easy revocations when one gets abused, and with stored photos can also serve as an anti-counterfeiting measure.  For bonus points, it lets non-drivers use their identification card without the odd looks; only police, dealerships, and vehicle rental agencies even need to know, so it doesn’t need to be printed on the card.  I wouldn’t even have needed a second card when I finally got around to taking the written test; an updated computer entry would have sufficed.

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Written by eswald

13 Dec 2011 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Lifestyle, Politics

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