Wanna Offer Fitness Tips? Yeah, You Need a License For That

P. Gardner Goldsmith | January 23, 2018
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Sometimes, as Americans concentrate time and energy on “Big Issues” like lowering the corporate tax rate, decreasing regulations, and trying to avoid the incessant torture of hashtag culture, other important issues slip under the political limbo bar. And on January 19, Reason Magazine’s Zach Weissmuller and Mark McDaniel turned the spotlight on one of them: the seeming metastasis of state and federal pushes to pass licensing laws for virtually everything, and, specifically, to license fitness trainers before they can legally accept clients.


As Weissmuller and McDaniel point out, since 2005, politicians in various states have tried 26 times to force fitness trainers to pay the state money and take special, state-approved classes before they can offer what will be government-approved fitness routines. And, like zombies, each time the proposals die, they’re resurrected to roam the Earth. In fact, during the ever-so-transparent Obama administration, the feds saw fit to flex their muscles and tear up the Constitution a little more, passing a federal licensing law for personal trainers in 2014 that is still not implemented.

Meanwhile, the nation awaits salvation from those evil fitness predators who offer us ideas like self-immolation and trebuchet riding as ways to stay in shape.

Come to think of it, there’s something perfectly, poetically absurd about made-up, botoxed, sedentary politicians telling hard-working workout specialists they have to conform to federal or state orders about what to do to teach fitness. After all, this is the same mentality that gave us the soul-crushing, carb-overloading, low-fat “Food Pyramid” that was only recently reburied in the desert wastes of American bureaucracy. You know, the Food Pyramid that saw a generation of citizens increase their carb intake like crazy, and coincided with skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates? Yeah, that pyramid.

Seems the all-seeing eye was near-sighted.

Yet, despite their past failures, politicians in states such as Florida, California, New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, and Massachusetts repeatedly try to resurrect their licensing bills. And you can bet that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the federal licensing law would be executed faster than Usain Bolt crushes the hundred.


As I have noted previously, licensing laws are popular for three major reasons. First, collectivists seem to believe that individuals are incapable of handling their own affairs. Sure, this makes one wonder, “If individuals are incapable of handling their own lives, how can they be bright enough to vote for other flawed people to not only handle their lives, but the lives of others?” But pay no attention to that logically-minded man behind the curtain.

The second reason is that licensing laws give politicians money and power. The licensing fees supply more and more cash to the state, and give politicians new victims who grovel and pay them election donations to avoid further regulations or get new regulations passed to block some form of competition.

And it’s this last feedback loop that’s particularly dangerous, and which sees more and more areas of our lives, such as manicures, hair braiding, and even interior design work, get the clampdown of licensure. Many people who are already in the field use it as a way to block lower-price competition from upstarts with fewer resources. Upstarts can’t afford the fees and classes, so they turn away from the field.

This not only harms the new entrepreneurs, it harms consumers, especially consumers with relatively lower incomes. New entrants into fields often charge less, simply because they don’t have established reputations. But they can provide services to poorer people for a lot less, thus helping increase competition and to better more lives.

Keep an eye peeled for the new wave of licensing on the state and local levels, because they’re not stopping. Despite the US Constitution prohibiting states from stopping you and your personal trainer from fulfilling a contract on which you’ve already agreed, it seems that many state politicians don’t want to do the heavy lifting of actually reading the supposed rules of the country.

They’d rather exercise in a different way. They want to exercise the use of sheer, raw power.

(Cover Photo: thoroughlyreviewed.com)

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