At a press conference today, the R Street Institute announced its support for a new consumer protection measure intended to improve quality of life for people around the country. It would require imposing more stringent occupational licensing requirements—albeit on members of only one particular profession.

After years of championing common-sense occupational licensing reforms, members of the R Street Institute (RSI) have heard all of the arguments against responsibly lowering barriers to work—and have had a change of heart.

During the press event, RSI employees urged lawmakers to expand occupational licensing requirements—because with unemployment so low, we’ve clearly made it too easy to work— and the passage of the Defend Everyone Against Reckless Politicians (DERP) Act. It would expand the very same licensing requirements lawmakers have levied on occupations to their own craft, which would only allow licensed politicians to become state or federal lawmakers.

“For years, California has been governed by unlicensed lawmakers, and look at the mess we’re in now. Enough is enough. We must pass the DERP Act before it is too late!” yelled RSI’s Steve Greenhut as he pounded the podium with his shoe.

Journalist H.L. Mencken noted that, “A professional politician … has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.” At the very least, then, politicians should face the same standards as streetwalkers, Greenhut added, calling DERP a sensible public health measure.

In 1950, fewer than 5 percent of professionals were required to obtain a license to work, but that number is closer to 30 percent today. According to the Institute for Justice, in order to acquire a license for lower to middle income professions, aspiring workers must “spend nine months in education or training, pass one exam and pay more than $200 in fees.” If this is good for the private sector, then it must be good for politicians too.

Like the rules governing a host of other occupations—including blow-dryers, florists and librarians—the DERP Act would require all politicians meet a minimum level of education and experience. They must also pass exams demonstrating their competency and, of course, understanding of basic hygiene, like the need to wash their hands after glad-handing at events.

Inspired by Kentucky’s oath of office in which lawmakers swear that they “have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it,” DERP would also require that lawmakers pass criminal background checks. However, this criminal background check would go far beyond Kentucky’s. Speeding tickets, petty misdemeanor convictions in college and more will be considered in the licensing process, and the DERP Act will contain a “good moral character” provision, like the one many occupational licensing laws require.

In the past, the primary reasons legislators have given for licensing myriad occupations is to protect the health and safety of Americans—and thankfully they have! “The harm that devious, unlicensed florists, for instance, can inflict is enormous, but the extent of the damage of de-licensing florists is only known by fortune tellers. Thankfully, they’re also licensed in many places,” said RSI’s Marc Hyden, while getting his palm read by a totally legit licensed seer.

Many licensing proponents have asked how consumers will know if professionals are competent and responsible without the government vouching for them. That is a fair point. “The government is actually a really great judge of character,” exclaimed Marc Hyden, “just look at some of the dictators and warlords the U.S. government has supported.” This is why we need DERP.

In the same vein, without DERP’s licensing requirements and credentialing, how will voters know if they’re getting a competent lawmaker? Should they blindly trust that they will keep their campaign promises, know how to balance a budget and have read the Constitution? Of course not. There’s too much at stake.

There is no occupation more dangerous—at least potentially dangerous—to the well-being of Americans than politicians. “While my history is a bit fuzzy, I don’t recall hordes of blow-dryers or librarians invading any countries or droning foreign lands in the past few years. Politicians like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama on the other hand…” RSI’s Anthony Lamorena trailed off.

While licensing has boomed in America, for far too long, elected officials have curiously opted against licensing politicians—despite the risk of voters choosing dangerous, incompetent, irresponsible and/or unhygienic politicians. That may soon change, and for good reason.

This is a landmark piece of legislation that could redefine how government is viewed. “From now on, when people gaze upon legislatures across the country, I want one word to come to mind: DERP,” RSI’s Sarah Wall said.

“Quite simply, American politics needs more DERP. On a wide range of issues from climate change to threats to liberal democracy, politicians across the political spectrum should just do more to be DERPier,” President Eli Lehrer declared.

From everyone at the R Street Institute, we’d like to wish you a happy April Fools’ Day.

image: vlad_g

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