Fitness Licensing: A Violation of Self Ownership

In 2007 I was doing my usual training at a local community gym when I saw two very fit elderly men doing a series of interval training I had never seen before. My curiosity got the best of me and I went over to the two gentlemen to ask them what they were doing. This is when I was introduced to Crossfit for the first time. Since that day other than expeditions I have not gone more than a few days without doing Crossfit. It has been a constant staple in my life and its where I have met some of the closest people in my life. I am grateful everyday I get to walk into a Crossfit affiliate and train with this passionate and dedicated community of individuals.

It could have not come at a better time for me to be introduced to Crossfit, I had just finished my career as a collegiate athlete and was starting to train for climbing expeditions but the daily grind at the community gym just was not cutting it for me. I was fortunate to join a local Crossfit affiliate which were few and far between then. Every morning I would go in and train with the local Fire Chief and I could not get enough of Crossfit. It was like being a kid again learning new skills and getting stronger.  Over the years it has taught me many valuable lessons about my body and mind that has helped me to live a more productive and healthy life.

After 10 years of being a Crossfit customer I finally decided to invest in the product that has done so much for my life. In 2017 I became a partner in multi-location Crossfit organization which was started by my good friends in 2010. I really enjoyed watching them grow their locations over the years and timing worked well for me to join their team and help build upon this great organization that was changing peoples lives. We currently have 10 locations across 3 states and we hope to continue to grow throughout the country to spread the Crossfit methodology and community.  But even something as good and pure as Crossfit is going to be met with great resistance from others.

A few weeks ago I came across the below video created by Reason explaining the occupational licensing hurdles Crossfit and other functional fitness companies are facing.  This would normally warrant a social share and post but now that I am vested in this organization I am taking this very serious. Knowing first hand the destruction occupational licensing does to innovation, customer experience, and the marketplace I am very concerned. I currently reside in Nevada which has the second highest occupational licensing rate in the country, over 30 percent of the workforce has to pay the state government to conduct their profession.  In Nevada, it requires a residential interior designer up to 5 years experience or education to get a license. Yes, let that soak in, 5 years for a residential interior designer!

Occupation Licensing Economics

What started as good intentions to protect consumers has quickly turned into a weapon for government and companies. Associations and private companies now regularly lobby legislatures to implement licensing within their industry.  Conveniently it is structured to protect their market share or eliminate competition. This practice has been rampant for the past fifty years.  A white paper conducted by the White House on Occupation Licensing in 2015 outlined the following findings which support the rampant increase in occupation licensing and decreased supply of professionals.

  • More than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with most of these workers licensed by the States. The share of workers licensed at the State level has risen five-fold since the 1950s.
  • Research shows that by imposing additional requirements on people seeking to enter licensed professions, licensing can reduce total employment in the licensed professions.

The cronyism of the politically connected can use the tactic of occupational licensing to decrease supply of professionals which serves two purposes – 1) Increases the value of the good and service to the consumer 2) Reduces the wages of peers that are unlicensed. The White House white paper found the following statements to be true.

  • Estimates find that unlicensed workers earn 10 to 15 percent lower wages than licensed workers with similar levels of education, training, and experience.
  • Licensing laws also lead to higher prices for goods and services, with research showing effects on prices of between 3 and 16 percent. Moreover, in a number of other studies, licensing did not increase the quality of goods and services, suggesting that consumers are sometimes paying higher prices without getting improved goods or services.

Occupational licensing is built on the foundation that government oversight will enhance quality, safety, and health. However, the research says otherwise, the below excerpt from the White House white paper explains the results of several studies.

If licensing were able to limit the practice of an occupation to high-quality practitioners, then it would be expected to improve quality and public health and safety. A wide range of studies have examined whether this happens. With the caveats that the literature focuses on specific examples and that quality is difficult to measure, most research does not find that licensing improves quality or public health and safety. Stricter licensing was associated with quality improvements in only 2 out of the 12 studies reviewed. There is also evidence that many licensing boards are not diligent in monitoring licensed practitioners, which contributes to a lack of quality improvement under licensing. These boards often rely on consumer complaints and third-party reports to monitor practitioner quality, but only a small fraction of consumer complaints result in any kind of disciplinary action.

Occupation Licensing Violates Basic Human Rights

Even though the economics do not justify the action of occupation licensing its actually the violation of self ownership that is most troubling.  Murray Rothbard said it best regarding the self ownership axiom “every man is a self-owner, having absolute jurisdiction over his own body. In effect, this means that no one else may justly invade, or aggress against, another’s person.” Thomas Jefferson echoed John Lockes words in the Declaration of Independence stating that all men by their nature have the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We have a right to our own actions and to do what we please with our body and actions in as much it does not violate the body or property of others.  That means if I want to squat below parallel or do kipping pull-ups this is well within my right of self ownership to do so.  No one has proprietary authority over the movement and conditioning of our bodies.  By trying to license and regulate fitness government is presupposing proprietary authority of our movement and bodies.  The Mises Institute does an excellent job of outlining the issue of infringement on self ownership.

A simple but powerful argument goes as follows. Each person acts in order to improve his condition prior to the act. If a person freely chooses among his available perceived opportunities, the expected improvement is as great as it can possibly be. In particular, if others impose constraints upon his choices, the person is worse off because such constraints foreclose choosing some acts of betterment that might otherwise have been selected. Better to choose from 50 available opportunities than to be forced to choose from 20 of these 50. With freedom, one might have chosen one of the 30 that have been eliminated.

This addresses the very issue with restricting choice and negating self ownership, by its nature occupation licensing is reducing choice for the individual and leaves the decision to a small authoritarian body. The question becomes how does a small authoritarian group, in this case a licensing board, know what is best for each individual.

What a person chooses depends on how he values his opportunities. Since his valuations are both subjective and unobservable to other people, the decision-maker has superior knowledge about them. This enables him to make better decisions for himself than anyone else can. If a dictator “really” knew that a person would not like or benefit from 30 out of the 50 opportunities, then by forcing the person to choose among the 20 remaining ones, he might (other things equal) make the person better off. But the dictator doesn’t have this information. As a rule, another person, especially a distant person, an acquaintance, or someone who does not keep in constant touch with the decision-maker, cannot gauge the costs and benefits of that person’s acts as well as the person making the choices.

The aforementioned data illustrates that licensing boards do little to improve quality, safety, and health among individuals.  There is no way for a small group of individuals with biases to understand nor navigate the complexities of individual human action. The collective wisdom of individual choice and natural consequences serves to naturally drive society much better than any small centralized group of individuals.

The basic economic aspects of all this are that life involves complex decision processes that occur over time, that there are an infinite number of possible paths to navigate and choose among, that the processes are dynamic, and that all of this occurs under uncertainty. As one proceeds through time, one receives feedback from earlier decisions, analogous to receiving returns on earlier investments. Feedback helps one learn. It helps us decide what new decisions to make. Each individual decision involves evaluation of available options, choice, implementing an option, and then monitoring the outcome; and these individual decisions are connected with many others. In other words, there are complex feedback loops involved.

This argument says that a person cannot learn how to navigate and create his own life without being free to choose because lack of freedom prevents learning and interrupts the feedback loops. If others make choices, unimportant or important, small or large, for a person, the person fails to gain experience and eventually loses the will to learn how to run his own life. External control interrupts the vital process of planning and overseeing the various processes and their connections.

A person cannot learn to drive a car if someone else takes the wheel. He cannot learn to become a racer if someone else takes over on all the curves.

Crossfit was born out of freedom of choice and self ownership. It started with one individual deciding what was best for his body and then sharing and learning from others in the pursuit of optimal human performance.  Had there not been a free environment to experiment and test theories with movement and nutrition the results of Crossfit would not have happened.  Because of freedom of choice Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman, created a new definition for fitness that is measurable and scalable for every individual.

We must see occupation licensing for what it is and that is a violation of self ownership and our most natural human rights.  Its intent is to limit choice and the voices of those that threaten the politically connected authorities in our society.  All occupation licensing threatens our self ownership but when it comes to health and fitness its a violation of our body and should be taken even more seriously.


Thanks to Crossfit founder, Greg Glassman, and his leadership Crossfit is a group of individuals that stands its ground and not afraid to take on the health industry giants that have led many astray for decades.  There are 14,000 Crossfit affiliates nationwide with millions of peoples lives changed for the better, this network has brought substantial innovation and disruption to health and fitness.  Hundreds of thousands of data points and countless studies conducted on overall physical and mental health improvement. However, this is challenging the conventional wisdom coming from the entrenched health industry and government.  We are at the start of the health and fitness war and I am happy to be part of the process to fight for a better standard of health and fitness and against government intrusion.  I know I speak for many that government does not have any business telling me what I can and can not do with my health and fitness.

Occupation licensing is an intrusion on our most basic rights of self ownership. A license and governing board to regulate health and fitness is a move of aggression by our government on our most sacred property, our bodies.  I speak as a Crossfit customer and owner that I do not want government in my local affiliates, we have done just fine without you for over a decade and we will continue to prosper without you going forward.  We might not have the resources of big soda or large health special interest groups but I have never met a more passionate and resilient group of individuals than those in the Crossfit affiliates around this country.  We will face your licensing and intrusion into our community and bodies with great resistance…