Nov 212007

I’ve been a user and fan of eBay since discovering it in 1997. eBay is the glowing example of what a free market could actually achieve. Sure, eBay’s not an entirely free market, but it’s as close as anything else happening on a large scale. The government has made several attempts at controlling eBay, some successful, many not, but the latest is one of the most onerous. From Philadelphia’s The Bulletin-

Online merchants who sell secondhand items on eBay face a high legal hurdle set up for them by the State Board of Auctioneer Examiners.

Pennsylvania’s Auctioneer Licensing Act requires anyone who makes a living taking bids on goods not their own to serve as an apprentice auctioneer for at least two years or to complete 20 credit hours in auctioning at a school approved by the Examiners Board. Under current Pennsylvania law, that goes for the eBay sellers as well.

State authorities have recently ramped up enforcement of the requirements. This has put a significant onus on thousands of Pennsylvanians who derive most of their income buying goods and selling them on the auction site eBay or other Web sites.

eBay Trading Assistants are being slapped with $1,000 fines because they haven’t bothered to jump through the government’s hoops in order to become licensed. One would think that this is a result of numerous complaints against such sellers by customers who feel they’ve been ripped off, and have thus turned to Mommy government for protection, but none of the new reports of these incidents refer to even a single complaint.

Meanwhile, in a typical case of government hypocrisy, I came across a story on reporting that the state of Pennsylvania itself generates more than $150,000 per year selling items confiscated or found by TSA agents, including everything from pocket knives and squirt guns to Ulysse Nardin watch es and fur-lined handcuffs.

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