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Noitaluger (that's 'regulation' spelled backwards)

The Ohio state government will soon require all auctioneers operating in that great state to be licensed.  This licensing requirement goes into effect on May 2.  Here’s the whole story; just below is a relevant excerpt from it:

Besides costing $200 and posting a $50,000 bond, the license requires a one-year apprenticeship to a licensed auctioneer, acting as a bid-caller in 12 auctions, attending an approved auction school, passing a written and oral exam. Failure to get a license could result in the seller being fined up to $1,000 and jailed for a maximum of 90 days.

This licensing requirement is stirring up controversy because, as written, it will prevent ordinary Ohioans from using eBay.  Supporters of the regulation deny that its intended reach is so vast.

Here’s the response offered by state Senator Larry Mumper, author of the legislation: "It certainly will not apply to the casual seller on eBay, but might apply to anyone who sells a lot," he said.  "If someone buys and sells on eBay on a regular basis as a type of business, then there is a need for regulation."

Sen. Mumper’s statement is striking for its backward logic.  It is precisely the regular seller – the person who earns his living buying and selling on eBay – who is least likely to cheat in his dealings on eBay.  Regular sellers have much more invested in their good reputations to risk it all by cheating their trading partners.  If government regulation is needed on eBay, it should apply first and foremost to the occasional user, for the occasional user is less likely than a regular user to be held in check by concern for his good commercial reputation.

For a variety of reasons, I don’t believe that government regulation is needed for eBay (or even for real-space auctioneers).  But it’s interesting that, politics being what it is, the stated justification for this regulation and for exceptions to it have precious little sound economic backing.

Thanks to Jon Sweet for alerting me to Ohio’s latest effort to protect and to serve.