Starting this week, fortune tellers in Warren, Mich., must be fingerprinted and pay an annual fee of $150 — plus $10 for a police background check — to practice their craft. The new rules are among America's strictest on palmists, fortune readers, and other psychics — and part of a growing push to regulate a business that has never been taken, or overseen, very seriously. But officials in Warren, a town of 138,000 near Detroit, say it's time to weed out tricksters. "We had no mechanism of enforcement to protect people against unsavory characters," Warren City Council member Keith Sadowski says. "We want to be sure there is some recourse in case we do get somebody who is not legitimate." Regulating an industry that deems itself clairvoyant, has no standard education requirements and yet rakes in cash for revealing spiritual truths may itself be an act of faith. It also might make good economic sense: just over one in seven Americans consulted a psychic or fortune-teller in 2009, according to the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life. That could be 30 million or more of us. – Time Magazine
Dominant Social Theme: Time to regulate the mystics.
Free-Market Analysis: We have been writing about regulation lately because the regulatory state is one of the very biggest of all power-elite themes. The financial crisis has actively fanned the flames of regulation. But at some point, regulatory society must surely crosses the divide between democracy and authoritarianism (a democracy being bad enough but an authoritarian one being worse). Eventually, inexorably you end up with a kind of totalitarianism. And what then? Dominant social theme (nonetheless): the marketplace needs to be tweaked and good government stands ready to do it.
The whole idea of a regulatory democracy is based on market failure. But since markets usually do not – cannot – fail, the necessary corollary to regulatory democracy is the central bank. It is the private/public central bank with its incessant monetary surges leading to booms and then terrible busts that both consolidates entrepreneurial business and gives rise (during the bust phase) to calls for government regulation to fix what the marketplace has ruined. Of course it is not the marketplace that has ruined anything but a legislatively-granted monopoly that gives a handful of men the power to determine the volume and price of money.
Once the process of regulatory democracy is underway, it will inevitably spread to the most unlikely places. One can make a case (not a viable one) that the financial industry ought to be regulated since it is closely involved with the central bank boom-and-bust cycle. One can make a case that certain industries ought to be regulated as well. But psychics? This is the direct result of a dominant social theme at work. People have become so inured to the steady production of useless regulatory legislation that they don't even notice the absurdity anymore. Here's some more from the article:
Warren's beefed-up regs came about this spring when Matt Nichols, a Warren police officer, told the city council that the town appeared vulnerable to fortune-telling crime. Once a year since at least 2005, Nichols says he has had to try to convince a psychic to return jewelry or cash taken from a client in exchange for performing spells or to free them from curses. But since no regulations barred such acts, criminal charges weren't an option.
"We are not looking to do anything to oppress people's beliefs," argues Nichols, also a member of the National Association of Bunco Investigators, a non-profit group dedicated to combating scams and cons. "We are looking to specifically identify crime and people who prey on the vulnerable."
Notice the definition of a new crime: fortune-telling crime. It has to do with being a predator. If someone requests your services, you must not provide them too aggressively and charge too much money. In fact, seen in its largest perspective, capitalist predation in the 21st century is the direct result of the business cycle. When times are good, people spend freely and are apt to purchase numerous services. When times turn tough, people regret purchasing some of those services. Now mix in one of the true predatory classes of Western society – the legal profession – and the noxious brew is ready to serve.
It gets still worse of course. People who make their living telling fortunes are not simply going to give up their profession and go away. They will struggle to adapt. Time tells us, "Some psychics, sensing which way the wind is blowing, are developing codes of ethics to ensure honest clairvoyance. Southern California medium Linda Mackenzie, for example, promises to not use her powers for personal gain or revenge. Allie Theiss, a psychic in Wooster, Ohio, posts a confidentiality agreement on her website and assures potential customers that readings are done without regard for a client's race, gender, creed, color or sexual orientation."
We can see from the above how the misbegotten progress of regulatory democracy poisons civil society. It is not enough to regulate the biggest industrial players. Eventually, the smaller company is going to be regulated (badly) and finally society's most helpless and hapless are going to be exposed to bureaucracy's bludgeon.
Not only that, but in fighting back, these poor individuals are bound to adopt the worst, or at least most politically correct, solutions that the West hast to offer. Thus the regulatory state seeps downwards like a powerful acid through all the strata of society until every part is equally poisoned. There is little entrepreneurship left unaffected. All are to be equally fearful. Every anodyne is equally absurd. And yet still it will not stop.
We asked a parenthetical question at the beginning of this analysis: What then? What happens when a democracy is so saturated with regulation that it virtually ceases to function? And when does that point come? When psychics are regulated? Or is there more to go? Actually, we don't think American (or Western) society has exhausted its regulatory enthusiasm yet. But surely that day must come.