The Atlantic

License to Speak

The state of Oregon is abusing its authority to regulate professional services to silence its critics.
Source: Wikimedia

Nearly 20 years ago, a man in Oregon found himself threatened with 98 years in prison for testifying against a proposed gravel mine.

It took a team of pro bono lawyers—including me—to convince a state board that this frontal attack on free speech violated the U.S. and Oregon constitutions.

Bureaucracies are slow to internalize bad news, however. Today, an Oregon man named Mats Jarlstrom is fighting the same free speech battle in the same state—represented by lawyers and the libertarian Institute for Justice. His fight implicates free speech in all 50 states—wherever state and local governments regulate and license professional services. In both cases, state bodies attempted to use their licensing authority to silence critics with the professional backgrounds to substantiate their objections.

Jarlstrom is in trouble with a state board called the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying. His “offense” was to use mathematical calculations to suggest to his local government that there might be a better way to time yellow lights at intersections. He was fined for “the unlicensed practice of engineering

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