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abstract

Although systems for licensing professionals are far from perfect, and their problems and costs should not be ignored, they are justified as a necessary means of protecting innocent people's vital interests. Licensing defends patients from inept doctors, pharmacists, and physical therapists; it protects clients from unqualified lawyers. We should protect people who are highly vulnerable to those who are supposed to serve them, those with whom they have a special relationship. Requiring professionals to be licensed is the most plausible way of doing that. Given the overwhelming support for the licensing of these professionals, I find it odd that so many people categorically reject proposals to license parents. Although the relationship between a parent and her children is different in some respects, it is also relevantly similar to that between a professional and those she serves. To defend these claims, I show how and why the rationale for licensing parents parallels the rational for licensing professionals. I then ask whether such a program could be justifiably implemented. Finally, I describe and reject what I see as the flawed view of the relationship between parents and their children.