In my previous incomplete post (published by mistake), I quoted a news report on the one year bar on architect Hafeez Contractor for appearing in an advertisement and asked why some professionals are not allowed to advertise. In a comment, Aristotle The Geek explains:
Most professions in India are regulated by so called autonomous bodies brought into being by various acts of parliament – the Bar Council of India, the Medical Council of India, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and so on. They thus have a charter that grants them absolute power to decide who is allowed to practice and who isn’t, who’s qualified and who isn’t, and to frame rules to “regulate” the profession. And so the regulations, most of them political in nature, start flowing. The ban on advertising, is one such regulation, because it helps those who are already entrenched in the profession (most clients come though word-of-mouth; this ban makes it the only option, except surrogate advertising through appearance on tv shows etc). And that is its main purpose. The “ethics” argument is just that – an argument. (emphasis mine)
Certainly a ban on advertising serves to “protect the establishment” (helping those who are already entrenched at the expense of newcomers). But is that all? I don’t think so. I think there is a deep fear of commercialization in most people’s minds that allows the establishment to create rules that prevent commercialization. The “protecting the establishment” is merely a consequence, though perhaps a welcome one for some in the establishment. There is a belief even among “liberals” (in the classical sense) that some professions like medicine, law, media etc are special and cannot be left to market forces. This belief is rooted in a distrust of the bania (merchant) and more generally the profit motive. As an example, anytime we happen to get an inferior product from some shop, my mother says: “He is a bania, after all”, refering to whoever the product was bought from. But why is the profit motive distrusted? Because it is selfish and the morality of altruism says that selfish motives are amoral at best. The profit motive is therefore viewed as an inevitable but unfortunate aspect of human nature, to be regulated by force for the general welfare. This leads to the perverse paradox of people believing that every individual is driven by an ignoble profit motive to perform harmful actions, but that these same individuals as a part of a collective can overcome these ignoble motives by force. In essence, this is the argument that man is too depraved to be left free. In practice, the creation of collectives to “temper” the profit motive always results in providing a platform for those who actually believe they can prosper by cheating others to set the rules. This is inevitable because when force is accepted as a proper way to produce desired outcomes, the winners are necessarily the most ruthless and unscrupulous.
The distrust of the profit motive and self interest is probably the result of a malevolent universe premise (I have yet to reach a conclusive position about this, but I am sure they are linked), specifically the idea that man is short sighted, irrational and immoral by nature. But even among some who do not view self-interest as immoral and regard force as wrong, a variant of the malevolent universe premise applies. Consider Aristotle The Geek’s comment for example. If the main purpose of the ban on advertising is to unfairly protect the establishment, then, given the fact that similar rules in one form or the other exist in most of the world, evil can win (and has won) on its own strength. This is just another side of the malevolent universe premise, specifically the idea that immoral men can win through their immorality. If this is so, any attempts to change the status-quo are necessarily doomed, and posts such as these are merely cathartic. But it is not so. The universe is not malevolent in any way. Laws such as the ban on advertisement are a result of a bad ethics (altruism) and bad premises. The crooks who cash in on such laws are merely parasites, not the originators. Their power stems not from their ruthlessness or lack of scruples but from the willingness of the establishment, most of which actually believes it is protecting their profession from destructive commercialization.