The literature on massage reveals that there is little if any risk of harm from massage.1,2 Despite that, some people still promote state massage laws to protect the public from harm. This report is the story of how legislators rejected one massage licensing bill which assumed that the public needed to be protected from harm.
Hear, Ye! Hear, Ye! Hear, Ye!
Once upon a time in a kingdom far across the sea, there lived a humble peasant who could neither read nor write. But he had a good head on his shoulders and a charming way with people. The story of how he became jester in the king's court is too long to tell here. Suffice it to say that when that humble and illiterate peasant became the royal fool, he taught himself to read and write, and eventually became the most well read, wisest, and shrewdest man in the kingdom.
The king respected his fool's intelligence and competence, and admired and trusted him. The court fool quickly became His Majesty's secret confidante and advisor. Of course, the king had a retinue of so-called wise men, but that was only for appearance. In those days, every king had wise men floating around his court.
One day, one of His Majesty's wise men told the king that His Royal Highness could profit handsomely by regulating massage therapists. The wise man, whose name was Rondor, also informed the king that he would be honored to get the ball rolling to license massage therapists if it pleased His Majesty which it most certainly did. Like all kings, His Majesty equated money and power, and had an insatiable desire for both.
Rondor then persuaded His Majesty to dispatch messengers throughout the kingdom to proclaim that His Royal Highness had commissioned a Royal Licensure TaskForce to draft a bill to protect his subjects from harm. Fortunately, as we shall see, the proclamation did not specify what the harm was. However, Rondor told the Royal TaskForce that the public needed to be protected from harm by massage therapists.
The royal fool decided to steer clear of that can of worms. He had read Robert W. Pelton's report on looney massage laws,3 and was well aware of how controversial state massage laws were in the United States. He knew that licensing massage would stir up a hornet's nest in the kingdom.
"There's something rotten in Denmark"
The members of the TaskForce knew they had to convince the royal legislators that licensure was needed to protect the king's subjects from harm by massage therapists. So, they did research to find out
(a) How many massage therapists had injured His Majesty's subjects?
(b) How many of His Majesty's subjects had been injured by massage therapists?
(c) How serious were the injuries?
This research revealed that massage therapists had never injured anyone in the kingdom. Research published by others provided convincing evidence that massage therapists in North and South America, Greenland, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Japan, India, China, Tierra del Fuego, Guam, Outer Mongolia, Shangrilah, Algeria, Borneo, Luxemburg, and many other places had also not injured anybody.
The members of the TaskForce were discombobulated by this information. Rondor, to whom they secretly confided their findings, was concerned about losing face with His Majesty if his idea of licensing massage therapists blew up. He therefore convinced the TaskForce to forget about the past and focus on the future. The kingdom, he insisted, needed to license massage therapists to prevent His Majesty's subjects from being harmed in the future.
The TaskForce encountered
opposition from the royal legislators
The royal legislators told the TaskForce, "The licensure bill you wrote is nonsense. You have presented no evidence that any of the king's subjects have ever been harmed by massage therapists." They also said:
Dress a monkey as you will, it remains a monkey still. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Why do you keep bucking your head against a brick wall? Stop beating a dead horse.
The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned, but 'tis still nonsense. (Ben Franklin)
The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not entirely absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible. (Bertrand Russell)
Rondor was determined not to let reality get in his way. His attitude was, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" But his scintillating asterism of tautology, pleonasm, echolalia, and cockamammie was no substitute for common sense, or horse sense as it was then called because there were many horses in the kingdom.
The TaskForce finally gave up
However, the TaskForce eventually realized that You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. - J.P. Barnum
If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through, it will blow up everything in its way. - Emile Zola.
The members of the TaskForce knew in their heart of hearts that their "Humpty Dumpty" massage bill had fallen off the wall, and "all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again."
The shopping cart light at the end
of the TaskForce's tunnel
When the royal fool, learned that the TaskForce was in deep trouble, he realized it was a wonderful opportunity for him to shine. He told the TaskForce there was an easier way to get licensure than by trying to sell the royal legislators a pig in a poke. (This pig in a poke first appeared in 1580 in Thomas Tusser's book Five Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie.)
The royal fool advised the Task Force that the king's royal proclamation did not specifically require that massage be licensed to protect the pubic from that harm. The TaskForce could easily do His Majesty's bidding, in full accord with His Majesty's proclamation, by focusing on harm caused by shopping carts instead of massage. None of the king's subjects had ever been rushed to hospitals to get emergency room treatment for injuries caused by massage. But that is precisely what was happening to many of the king's subjects who were injured by shopping carts.
The fool also told the TaskForce that he would inform the king that much more money would flow into His Majesty's royal coffers if His Highness had a law which requires shopping cart drivers to be certified because many more of the king's subjects drove shopping carts than did massage.
Getting more money, the fool said, would please His Majesty no end. The fool knew that increasing his royal income was one of His Majesty's highest priorities. His royal Highness was always on the lookout for more income. Like other kings, he even started wars for that purpose.
The royal fool pointed out to the TaskForce that hard data were readily available about how many of His Majesty's subjects had been injured by shopping carts and how serious the injuries were. According to a 1991 report, 33,000 subjects were injured by shopping carts, seriously enough for some of them to require emergency room treatment.4
Half of the 33,000 were children under four who had been left unattended and fell out of the carts. The rest were injured by shopping carts in other ways. The fool gave The TaskForce a report4 which documented the harm associated with shopping carts. Finally, the fool advised The TaskForce that, armed with this documentation, they could tell the royal legislators that
(a) Licensure is needed to protect His Majesty's subjects from harm by shopping cart drivers.
(b) The king's subjects should be licensed to drive shopping carts, especially with children in them.
(c) His Majesty can get a lot more money by licensing shopping cart drivers than massage therapists because many more of the king's subjects drive shopping carts than do massage .
The royal fool told the TaskForce that all the royal legislators know very well which side of their bread is buttered. They would quickly realize that the king would get considerably more money by licensing shopping cart drivers than by licensing massage therapist. These loyal public servants would then immediately and unanimously pass a law to license shopping cart drivers.
That is precisely what happened.
The TaskForce enjoyed fun and games
The members of the Royal TaskForce then relaxed and enjoyed the fruit of their labor. They had fun and games, and got well paid, for three years during which time they wrote educational and other requirements for a shopping cart law, held public hearings, rewrote the requirements, held more hearings, went on expensive retreats where they could think more clearly and work more effectively, etc. Their final requirements included
(a) satisfactory completion of a one-year, 1000-hour training in a Shopping Cart Driving School accredited by the National Association of Shopping Cart School Accreditors (NASCSA) and staffed with NASCSA-certified shopping cart driving instructors.
(b) a passing grade on the National Certification Examination for Shopping Cart Drivers (NCESCD).
(c) a practicum; that is, a shopping cart driving "road test" in one of several crowded supermarkets accredited for that purpose by Rondor, for whom His Majesty would create that position.
(d) shopping cart driving insurance issued by an insurance company established for that purpose by Rondor who held 10% of the stock, The rest of the stock was held by His Majesty.
(e) a minimum of 12 continuing education credits each year in shopping cartology. These credits would be awarded only for seminars, workshops, conferences, etc. that had been approved in advance for continuation education credit by the National Board for the Examination and Certification of Shopping Cart Drivers (NBECSCD).
Individuals had to be at least 18 year old to apply to His Majesty for a shopping cart driving license. People who were at least 21 years old and could document that they had been driving shopping carts for at least three consecutive years without harming anybody were grandcarted in.
His Majesty was overjoyed to get the additional revenue which was tax-exempt, like all his other income was.
His Majesty awarded the Royal Medal of Honor, the kingdom's highest decoration, to each member of the TaskForce for his important contribution in protecting the welfare of his loyal subjects.
The National Association of Massage Therapists of the Kingdom Far Across the Sea (NAMTKFAS) gave the royal fool its Annual Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to the Massage Profession.. NAMTKFAS honored the royal fool because massage therapists did not have to pay all the fees that shopping cart drivers now had to pay.
The royal legislators remained on the king's gravy train because they had enacted a law that would please His Majesty by bringing considerable money into His Majesty's coffers.
His Majesty knighted his fool and proclaimed that Sir Fool and his daughter, the Princess Lulu Belle, would be married at a royal wedding. They were so betrothed and lived happily ever after in that kingdom far across the sea
Unfortunately, not everybody in the kingdom lived happily ever after. All the subjects who drove shopping carts resented all the onerous fees they were now required to pay. There were fees for licenses to drive shopping carts, fees to take the national certification examination, fees for continuing education credits, fees for insurance and fees for innumerable other things that were tacked on from time to time.
They also had to buy shopping cart seats for their shopping carts for children less than five years old. In addition, supermarkets charged them user fees to cover the costs of having shopping carts registered, licensed and inspected annually by His Majesty's Royal Department of Transportation. The shopping cart drivers couldn't do anything about the increasing number of fees and the increasing cost of these fees because they were what His Majesty wanted, and His Majesty's wish was law.
Unfortunately, licensure did not decrease the number of shopping cart accidents. But licensure also had not decreased the number of subjects injured by massage therapists in the United States, where state licensing had become epidemic, because there were no injured clients to begin with; that is, before people in the United States were blessed with state massage laws.
Now let's look at the serious iatrogenic effect of licensing shopping cart drivers. In the first year of licensure, the number of the king's subjects injured by shopping carts increased 393%. This increase involved injuries of adults. His Majesty was not concerned about that increase in injuries because the increase in his income was substantial. However, he was curious, in a sort of lackadaisical way, about why there were 393% more injuries after licensure.
His Majesty's wise men advised His Majesty that 393% was not statistically significant. The king's son-in-law, Sir Fool, knew what had happened, but kept his mouth shut. The higher incidence of injuries resulted from the resentment and frustration that shopping cart drivers developed because they had to pay so many fees in order to continue driving.
The shopping cart drivers couldn't get rid of their anger by dethroning and beheading His Majesty, which many secretly wanted to do. So they took out their hostility by driving their carts like wild men. That's why 393% more subjects were injured after licensure was enacted..
The licensure epidemic
The licensure of shopping carts drivers brought worldwide renown to His Majesty and to His Majesty's kingdom. The major news media reported the benefits of shopping cart licensure even though they didn't exist, but did not mention the 393% increase in shopping cart injuries which did exist.
This worldwide publicity brought delegations from other kingdoms. These delegations were sent by the Majesties of those other kingdoms who had heard that "There's gold in them thar shopping cart hills." They wanted to find out how it was mined so they could tap into the Mother Lodes of wealth in their own kingdoms.
1. Schatz, A., Tillotson, A., and Brewster, M. Since massage does not cause harm, why license massage practitioners to prevent harm? Spiritual Massage Ministry Newsletter. 2:1-6. 1996.
2. Schatz, A., and Brewster, M. Why is the Pennsylvania Licensure Coalition (PALC) promoting state licensure to protect the public from harm? Will PALC please tell us how many people have been harmed by bodyworkers in Pennsylvania and how serious their injuries were? Journal of Spiritual Bodywork 2:7-10, 1996.
3. Pelton, R.W. Loony massage laws. Massage Magazine. Issue 30. pp. 64-66. March/APRIL 1991.
4. Blumenthal. M. How safe are herbal products? Health Counselor. pp 14-15. October 1991.