Rant About Permits and Licenses

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A license is a grant of permission. The licensor grants permission to the licensee to do something that the licensee does not have a right to do. A rental contract, though usually called a lease, is a form of license. In exchange for money, the licensee (in this case the lessee/tenant) is allowed to occupy and live in the premises owned by the lessor (in this case the licensor/landlord). Notice that the owner of the property does not have a right to the (potential) tenant’s money until after the contract is signed. Similarly, the (potential) tenant does not have a right to enter the property. If the landlord takes the money without consent or agreement it is theft; if the tenant moves into the property without consent or agreement it is trespass.

Only those who have rights in property can grant licenses over that particular property. The difference between borrowing a car and stealing it is the license, or permission. Thus, it is clear that whenever a person owns a particular resource, only he or she can legitimately decide how to use or not use it. Yet this is not what we see in everyday reality. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Upon entering most establishments you are greeted not just by an employee or manager, but also by a barrage of government papers that are usually framed and hanging on the walls. Why, one asks, can this be? As we mentioned before, only the owner of a resource can decide how it should be used. How, then, can state governments demand permission from owners before they can engage in certain activities?

There are two solutions to this question:

  1. The state owns certain things and thus has the right to license them
  2. The state owns nothing but acts as if it did

Let’s quickly go through the ways that the state claims it can own resources:

  1. Buying them. This is financed through taxation, which is theft. Because the state does not own the tax revenue, its purchases are invalid.
  2. By decree (legislation, proclamations, executive orders, etc.). There is no connection here. The government merely claims ownership without a link to it. It’s as if I were to claim that I own a patch of forest without ever having worked the land, lived there, embordered it or other reasonable connection.
  3. Conquest. Does this one really require an explanation?
  4. Eminent domain. A form of theft.
  5. By “homesteading” it. This is still not really homesteading as everything the state does is financed through taxation and backed by aggressive legislation. If a thief steals your money and uses that to build a house on virgin land, he does not get to own the land (or the house).
  6. As the recipient of donations. Even this one is not safe, for the management of resources donated to the state requires taxation and an army of bureaucrats.

Having briefly gone through each one of the possibilities, we can definitively conclude that the state cannot coherently own anything because all of its methods are criminal; it is aggressively managing and/or occupying resources against the desires of the owners. (If anything, it should be the people who give the government permission to do things!)

Here’s a short list of peaceful activities that either require a license or are generally prohibited (i.e., no license is granted) or that are highly regulated:

  • Produce and sell unpasteurized dairy;
  • Create vehicles that run on alternate forms of energy;
  • Install pool tables in one’s bar (yes, in some places there is a law against that);
  • Hire anyone regardless of national origin or status;
  • Sell food without nutritional information;
  • Manufacture handguns without serial numbers, attach suppressors to them, and raffle them off at the weekly bingo night for local seniors;
  • Become an experienced marijuana gardener and open a neighborhood kiosk;
  • Run a brothel;
  • Teach;
  • Open a website for organ donations and sales;
  • Gamble;
  • Gamble online;
  • Research, develop and bring to market life-saving medicines;
  • Videotape, sell and broadcast pornography;
  • Cut hair, arrange flowers, give manicures, fix roofs, become a beautician, drive a cab, install plumbing or remove teeth;
  • Coin money;
  • Build a house or expand said house;
  • Build an airstrip (and use it of course); and last but certainly not least…
  • Sell liquor.

The common thread across the examples above is that barring state interference (through licenses and permits), anyone should be allowed to create, buy, sell, lease, give away, destroy, transport, inherit or bequeath anything so long as no one else’s property is compromised. It’s that simple. Anything else is tyrannical.

Manuel Lora [send him mail] works at Cornell University as a TV and multimedia producer. Visit his blog.

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