Protection rackets

Nevada has scores of state boards and commissions that supposedly protect the public from virtually every ill, including high dairy prices and rogue medical practitioners.

The reality: Many are thinly veiled protection rackets intended to inhibit competition and shield established businesses. Others are simply a waste of taxpayer money.

Yes, some of these panels do serve an important public function. The Gaming Control Board, for one, does an impressive job regulating the state's most vital industry.

But does anybody truly believe calamity would strike if the state were to eliminate the Bicycle Advisory Board; the Cosmetology Board; the Dairy Commission; the Independent Living Advisory Council; the Beef Council; or the Early Interagency Coordinating Council?

On Friday, the Nevada Appeal reported that Gov. Jim Gibbons has ordered a review of all state boards and commissions to determine if they are needed.

Unfortunately, the governor's effort may be more cosmetic than an actual effort to trim the bureaucracy.

"Make no mistake, the governor believes many of these boards are necessary to protect the public," said Dan Burns, the governor's spokesman.

Instead, Mr. Burns said, the governor intends to look at whether some functions of various panels may overlap with others. "For example, do you need a barber's board and a cosmetology board or could you combine them," he told the Appeal.

In fact, Mr. Burns has chosen an appropriate example. But rather than consolidating the functions of haircut and cosmetology regulators, why not get rid of them entirely? How would society suffer if the state government got out of the business of licensing haircutters and nail clippers?

And ignore the argument that these commissions don't cost the taxpayers any money because they are funded by surcharges assessed on those being regulated. In fact, many boards do directly siphon taxpayer funds -- and those that don't still suck money from the private economy by demanding direct annual payments from those being "licensed."

Gov. Gibbons must be more aggressive in his review of these panels. Killing off a few dozen of them should be the real goal.