Licensing and exam requirements for tour guides

Paul Finkelman pfink at
Fri Jul 4 16:41:42 PDT 2008

I assume Gary has never taken a guided tour of "ghost sighting" or similar tours, where the "truth" is a flexible commodity.

Paul Finkelman
President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law
     and Public Policy
Albany Law School
80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, New York   12208-3494

pfink at
>>> "Allison, Gary" <gary-allison at> 07/04/08 5:51 PM >>>
>From this case and others, it seems that conservatives/libertarians are intensifying their claim that government should not regulate to insure that buyers get good value for their money.  Politicians, those who engage in political commentary, writers of various genres and advertisers certain enjoy a first amendment right to play fast and loose with the facts.  Tour guides, however, represent to the paying public that they will provide accurate information about the locations and sites covered by their tours.  Tourists should have the right to receive accurate information from guides, not just opinions or fictitious narratives.  Surely the first amendment does not require government to stand by and allow ignorant or malevolent guides to mislead the paying tourists.

Gary Allison
University of Tulsa

-----Original Message-----
From: conlawprof-bounces at on behalf of Sanford Levinson
Sent: Fri 7/4/2008 3:11 PM
To: Malla Pollack; Volokh, Eugene; conlawprof at
Subject: RE: Licensing and exam requirements for tour guides
What's the difference between requiring that taxi drivers actually have some semblance of what in London is called "the knowledge" of where things are and how to get to them and requiring that persons who are going to take my money to guide me around Philadelphia actually possess relevant knowledge about what they're going to show me.  
I can appreciate the impulse behind the suit.  We were in Athens with a friend of ours who teaches Greek philosophy, and he was accosted when he started lecturing to the group we were with about the Acropolis.  We were told in no uncertain terms that that was reserved for licensed tour guides.  That being said, our experience with licensed guides in Greece has been very good; they do in fact know their stuff, and I benefitted from it.  
And, unlike licensed barbers, etc., where one might depend on word of mouth to take care of incompetent barbers (and I'm sympathetic to IJ libertarian critiques of stringent licensing requirements), one can't depend on these sort of informal controls with tour guides, since their customers are all tourists who have no way of asking their friends about reliable tour guides.  


From: conlawprof-bounces at on behalf of Malla Pollack
Sent: Fri 7/4/2008 11:02 AM
To: Volokh, Eugene; conlawprof at
Subject: Re: Licensing and exam requirements for tour guides

But presumably you have no problem with requiring licensing (based on proof of competence) for history teachers?  This seems to me to be a statute preventing misleading or inaccurate commercial advertising -- by offering a tour you are implicitly claiming enough historical knowledge about Phili to provide a useful tour. 

The oddity is the lack of licensing for book authors -- presumably because (unlike tours) you can judge a book before buying it and because books are usually treated delicately because of First Amendment concerns.  

Malla Pollack
Barkley School of Law

----- Original Message ----
From: "Volokh, Eugene" <VOLOKH at>
To: conlawprof at
Sent: Friday, July 4, 2008 10:02:52 AM
Subject: Licensing and exam requirements for tour guides

    The Institute for Justice is challenging Philadelphia's new
requirement ( that
tour guides be licensed and take special history exams.  IJ seems to be
exactly right on this: such a requirement violates the First Amendment,
yes?  I take it that the government couldn't require that authors of
history books or travel books be licensed and take exams; nor can it
require the same as to theaters that present history/geography-related
informational entertainment (except that it could set up content-neutral
licensing requirements for non-content-related reasons, such as making
sure that the theater is properly fire-safe, or for that matter that the
tour guide operator has licensed drivers and adequate accident
insurance).  How could the answer be any different for tours, which are
likewise a form of history-/geography-related infotainment?  Or am I
missing something here?

    (There are, of course, similar requirements for professionals
who provide individualized advice to clients on important matters, such
as law, medicine, psychology, or finance, but here there is no
individualized advice nor the high stakes involved in typical advising

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