The Personal Trainers Liberation Army

Sorry to be snarky, but having gotten crosswise of my battle against licensing requirements, I felt the need to rebuke Freddie here.


In a followup post, Freddie writes:

Almost all of what Conor is addressing is a straw man, of course, as I never proposed close to what he’s suggesting I did, and most of it doesn’t follow logically at all. The idea that, perhaps, we should have regulatory standards if you want to call yourself a licensed personal trainer doesn’t even come close to suggesting that everyone needs a personal trainer to work out, that everyone who wants to be paid to show other people how to work out would need to be licensed, or that Congress would sit around writing regulations themselves. (Does Conor think the House is actually performing drug trials in their spare time, because they theoretically empower the FDA?) The failure is in the fact that people want to go to personal trainers who have some sort of license, and personal trainers want to be licensed to do better business, and yet the lack of clear standards on even a state-wide basis makes this impossible for both and invites abuse from unscrupulous people.

Obviously Freddie doesn’t actually want to require everyone who works out to get a personal trainer. I raised that point in my sarcastic rebuttal to demonstrate the flawed standard that Freddie is using to justify government intervention. As he wrote in his original post calling for federal licensing of personal trainers:

…as it’s an issue of protecting people from actual physical harm, I don’t think its passage would signal some sort of creep towards a nightmare regulatory state. Incidentally, regulations that protect people from bodily harm are what a lot of people actually want most from government, and expect most from government…

Couldn’t exactly the same reasoning be applied to a requirement that exercisers make use of a trained guide when lifting weights in a gym or training for a marathon? We’d all agree that would be a signal of creep toward a nightmare regulatory state, because we’re used to professional licensing now, while we’re not use to what I facetiously proposed.

And I maintain that were a federal law to be passed on this matter, members of Congress would have to study and write guidelines that set forth what exactly personal trainers should know, who exactly is qualified to teach them, how those teachers are licensed, etc. How does Freddie propose to pass federal legislation on this matter without involving the legislature?

Finally, if the failure in Freddie’s view is merely that “people want to go to personal trainers who have some sort of license, and personal trainers want to be licensed to do better business,” I fail to see why this requires the federal government to mandate the licensing of all personal trainers. Though I’d prefer no federal involvement full stop, why doesn’t Freddie advocate that the government sign off on some standard, issue certificates to those who voluntarily want to prove that they’ve met them, and leave it at that? Better yet, why doesn’t he simply call for some other non-governmental body to do this same thing — preferably a body that has greater expertise in setting standards than the government?

Freddie concludes:

…conservatives love to rail against bad regulations because it’s easy; find one or two examples of poorly conceived or implemented regulations, and the posts write themselves. It’s a much different thing when you’re actually governing, and people are being injured and killed because of a lack of enforceable standards. But then there again we see the context in which these debates operate. As liberalism is the default ruling ideology of the United States, conservatives don’t actually have to govern, merely critique. And my liberal peers are more than happy to go about the business of actually making society work.

Another way to put this is that Freddie’s liberal peers are more than happy to pass licensing requirements in all sorts of fields where there isn’t any need for them — barbers, interior designers, high school teachers, and now apparently yoga teachers and personal trainers — because their wrongheaded view of government presumes it is the moral responsibility of the legislature to intervene in any voluntary transaction that might result in an injury, so much so that legislative action is demanded without even stopping to ponder whether the law in question is constitutional, or whether on balance it does more harm than good, or whether it favors the affluent and overburdens the poor and unconnected, or whether the state has any business inserting itself in the voluntary behavior at issue.

So yes, it is easy for conservatives to rail against these things. There is a reason for that: it is the odiousness of the requirements at issue, demonstrable across all sorts of industries, and yet insufficient to overcome the left’s ideological predisposition for inserting government into any worldly arena where outcomes are short of perfection.