By: T F Stern
T F Stern’s Rantings

A fellow locksmith from California, Robert Frantz, wrote a letter to the Society of Professional Locksmiths requesting membership and asking for help regarding unqualified individuals posing as locksmiths. Tom Lynch sent me a copy of his letter and thought I’d want to read it, perhaps even toss in my two cents worth.

“…I see no real reason other than to abide by CA laws to obtain a CA Locksmith License for the protection of any consumer and believe it only an avenue to monetary gain for our state and lazy bureaucrats offering a false sense of security and trust for the public at the legit locksmiths expense.”

It appears as though Robert Franz has figured it out, or at least is onto the larger scam; states using locksmiths as a revenue tool via licensing. Locksmith licensing was initiated under the false assumption that such licensing would protect consumers and elevate the public’s respect for the industry. The Associated locksmiths of America (ALOA) pushed hard to get locksmiths on board while they vigorously lobbied legislators in various states with their idea of the perfect locksmith licensing legislation package.

I wrote an article several years ago which explained my concerns regarding locksmith licensing in Texas, concerns which have been ignored on a regular basis even though tentacles of government bureaucracy grow and consume the free market system at an alarming rate. I’ll cut and paste one paragraph from that article in order to explain why none of the goals of locksmith licensing are valid.

“I will start off with the stated mission of the Agency which is the “protection of the public through fair and impartial regulation of the Private Investigations and Private Security Industry”. It goes further and states its job as Agency in the State of Texas for “ensuring citizens and consumers of investigations and security services, that these industries provide reliable services, employ qualified and trustworthy personnel, and are free from misrepresentation and fraud”. With a mission statement as broad as all that; who could complain that they don’t have everyone’s interests at heart? The last line in the Agencies mission statement is, “It is not the goal of the License Section to speed up or slow down the processing of applications, but to ensure the qualifications of all applicants prior to issue”.”

The Agency, the Department of Public Safety/Private Security Board (DPS/PSB), can no more “ensure” citizens and consumers that a licensed locksmith will do a better job than an unlicensed locksmith than it can “ensure” that the weatherman’s forecast will be accurate; take your umbrella just in case. The best it can do is hope that honest hard working individuals will do the best he/she can while serving the public; having a license does not “ensure” quality of work.

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Ben Franklin circa 1755

If you wanted to examine ulterior motives for bringing about locksmith licensing then perhaps the misrepresentation and fraud mentioned by the Agency’s mission statement could be referring to the alarm services industry and established locksmiths, folks who have a vested interest in making it more difficult for competitors to enter or exist in the market place. What better way to limit competition than to legislate them out of the market place via Lilliputian locksmith licensing, rules and regulations; that’s not a question.

The Federal Trade Commission recently took the dental industry to court, and won, for anti-trust violations when the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners attempted to limit who could or could not provide teeth whitening products or services through licensing restrictions.

After reading through the legal mumbo-jumbo most folks would come to the same conclusion; government is deeply embedded within the fabric of what used to be the free market system as to make it impossible to separate or nullify damage done by well meaning “do gooders” from any possible gains derived from such over sight.

Each time government attempts to aid one segment of society it generally does so at the expense of others and each layer adds to the problem. Individual liberty is an illusion in our day, sad but true, when nearly everyone is required to obtain a license to do that which was perfectly legal prior to government intervention.

There’s an old book I like to reference when talking about the inappropriate use of government by industry to procure a monopoly at the expense of free enterprise, H. Verlan Andersen’s, Many are Called, But Few are Chosen. Chapter 7 titled, Acts of Government Which Constitute an Exercise of Unrighteous Dominion, explains that a free society stands in opposition to licensing and includes a section called, Government Enforced Monopolies.

“If we desire for ourselves the freedom to enter a trade or occupation when and where we choose, we should allow our fellow men this same right. If we believe we should be left free to purchase goods or services from any person who offers them for sale, how can we forcibly restrict the freedom of other members of the buying public and still live the Golden Rule?”

American citizens who value individual liberties intended to be available equally for all other citizens should consider the foundations of any argument in favor of licensed industries. “But I’m a professional and have the necessary experience while scammers are unqualified to be called locksmiths”, I’ve heard it all as justification for licensing.

“… open competition in their field should be prohibited because, if this were not done, the unlearned, the unskilled, and the inexperienced would be serving the public. But this argument assumes it is possible to classify men into two groups—the qualified and the unqualified”

Andersen goes on to destroy the supposed justification for overseers or governing boards which limit competition via licensing restrictions and which dictate who is qualified and who isn’t, “…there are not two groups of men—the qualified and the unqualified; there is only one group and every member of it is unqualified to some extent.” Rather than quote the entire book, go read it on your own as the information is free to anyone with an internet connection.

Getting back to Robert Frantz’ request for help, he pointed out that scammers were able to continue ripping off the public without licensing and how the state of California was not enforcing laws intended to protect consumers and those who were properly licensed in the locksmith industry. He then wrote:

“In my opinion licensing fees in this state seems similar to taxation without representation and this Govt. needs a tea party or be forced to enforce the laws that will protect industry and consumer.”

I’m sorry to point out the flawed connection brought out; but folks who sustain fundamental tea party issues usually don’t support licensing of trades and industry for the reasons already pointed out above. Government mandates, regardless of their intent, only add to the complexities and cost of doing business. They cannot ensure the quality of work through licensing; the best they can do is hope honest hard working individuals will do the best they can while serving the public.

“Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own…the harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional ‘do-gooders,’ who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others.” (Henry Grady Weaver, The Mainspring of Human Progress pg 40-41)

When a case can be made by an unhappy consumer that a business has not performed work properly or has violated the trust of an individual there are already laws on the books and courts in place to adjudicate those issues, either civil courts or criminal courts. Why penalize everyone with mandated licensing? We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that anyone who doesn’t wish to be licensed has inferior skills or worse, intends to scam the public by pretending to be something he/she is not?

Wouldn’t society be better off if we reversed the trend of having government involved in nearly every aspect of our lives? Let’s begin the healing process by deconstructing the multiple levels of government starting with the locksmith industry. We need to do away with the bureaucracy which micro manages everyone with mandated licenses, mandated continuing education, mandated forms, mandated uniforms or any other great idea that someone had that he/she thinks everyone else should do.

The ALOA and many other ‘prim and proper’ licensed locksmiths won’t appreciate the information presented here. I was a member of ALOA for over thirty years until I could no longer justify the fact that they were working against everything I stood for. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not require a license. I maintain my membership in the Greater Houston Locksmith Association as a matter of necessity; but I value my membership in the Society of Professional Locksmiths and Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America; folks who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade.

Perhaps some day America will return to the once commonly held understanding that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights from our Creator and are not to be to be licensed by any government entity.