Persons or businesses whose vocations have the potential to cause serious property or bodily harm should be publicly registered so that:

  • Minimum standards can be required;
  • The public can have a definitive way of checking credentials;
  • Members can be disbarred in the event of misconduct or incompetence.

All entries should have links to the appropriate corresponding Individuals Register, Company Register, or Foreign Nationals Register. Records of persons who have been disbarred should be kept on the register, together with the written judgment of the tribunal that disbarred them.

Each profession should be governed by rules which are enshrined as primary legislation. Admission to the profession should be determined by educational prerequisites and/or public examination.

Professional associations

Each profession should be obliged to form an association to:

  • Administer the register.
  • Administer admissions, including examinations.
  • Inspect members for compliance with the profession’s rules.
  • Prosecute members and unlicensed practitioners.
  • Act as trustees to wind up the businesses of disbarred, incapacitated, or suspended members.
  • Make submissions to the legislature on
    a. the practice rules.
    b. educational standards.

Fees to support the association and voting should be mandatory for all members. In order to prevent wastrels hijacking an association:

  • Activities funded by compulsory fees should be strictly limited to the above functions.
  • The association should be barred from being involved in political or charitable activity or any other activity outside its role (for example, running television advertisements for or against propositions, issuing magazines to its members).
  • Budgets should be subject to rigorous audit and all accounts published together with source documents (taxi receipts, stationary invoices, etc.) on the Internet.

Should some members of a profession want to unite together to create a politically active group, they should be free to form a private association to do so. The important thing is that the compulsory association not be used for non-administrative purposes. There ought to be multiple associations to enable competition between them for members (on the basis of reputation enhancement) drive standards ever higher.

Industry specific public prosecutors

There should be a specialist public prosecutor for every profession. The role of the specialist public prosecutor is to act as a check and balance on the public associations. The office of the public prosecutor should be funded by fees levied on members and fines. The role of the public prosecutor should be to:

  1. Inspect members of the profession for compliance with the rules.
  2. Prosecute members of the professions for breach of the rules. The following should have standing to bring proceedings against members for breach of practice rules:
    1. The professional association.
    2. The specialist public prosecutor.
    3. Clients and others who have suffered damages as a result of a breach.

The public associations for professions such as real estate agents, lawyers, real estate appraisers, financial advisors, and the like should be required to maintain sinking funds to compensate members of the public for embezzlement by their members. All professionals should be separately required to carry professional indemnity insurance to cover negligence. Regulating professions in this way, through the rule of law and at their own cost, is preferable to employing an inefficient bureaucracy. However, in setting rules, Adam Smith’s warning should be remembered:

To widen the market and to narrow the competition is always the interest of the dealers . . . . The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it. (The Wealth of Nations, 1776.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove