people don't value a ham license at all now.
I think what's really happened is that *licenses* don't mean what they once did.
Once upon a time, the Federal Government took a very active role in the regulation of radio.
They'd seen the chaos of pre-1912 maritime radio, and lawlessness of 1920s broadcasting, and wanted no more of it. They also knew how much havoc a malfunctioning transmitter could cause. The situation was considered so important that the FRC (which became the FCC) was eventually created to deal with it.
Their solution 99 years ago was mandatory licensing of both operators and stations. Those in charge knew, understood and supported the concept of the skilled, knowledgeable, licensed Radio Operator in all radio services. In some services the required skills and knowledge would be mostly technical, in others mostly operational, and in most a mixture of operational and technical, but in all cases the licensed Radio Operator was indispensable.
Thus there were Amateur licenses, Commercial Radiotelephone licenses and Commercial Radiotelegraph licenses. There were station licenses and operator licenses. There were several operator license classes and serious test requirements.
And as technology became more complex, a whole flock of endorsements for things like radar were created.
Those regulations created a lot of jobs. Indeed, they created a whole profession. Every commercial radio service needed FCC-licensed Radio Operators of various levels for various tasks. Whether it was routine transmitter checks at a daytime-only AM BC station, running a vital maritime shore station, maintaining land-mobile radios, or any of dozens of other jobs, the FCC-licensed Radio Operator was an absolute necessity, by law. And these were pretty good jobs, with decent pay and benefits.
Someone could have a Ph.D. in EE, the Nobel Prize in physics, years of military radio experience, etc., etc., but without the proper License they were not a Radio Operator and could not legally do any of the Radio Operator's jobs. Of course they could earn the License - but only by passing the test. And only a US citizen could get a US license.
The end result was that for several decades a commercial license of the right type, plus a high-school-equivalent education and a clean record, were practically a Golden Ticket to a decent-paying career. And Amateur Radio was often the first step in the licensing process of commercial operators, though not all commercial operators started out as hams.
This doesn't mean all those jobs or the licenses were easy to do or get, nor that a Radio Operator didn't have to know his/her stuff. Not by a long shot. But it did mean that it was a way for folks who knew something about Radio to get a decent living without a college degree and without a whole bunch of low-priced competition, both domestic and "offshore".
At the same time, none of the licenses required anything close to the knowledge of an four-year EE degree. Nor were they meant to.
It was a Good Thing. Too good, in fact.
The problem was that the Captains of Industry didn't like paying for all those licensed Radio Operators, nor their benefits, for what seemed to them to be simple, easy jobs. Unionized or not, the License requirements meant the Captains couldn't hire just anybody for the Radio jobs, nor could they combine certain jobs to reduce the head count, nor could they neglect doing certain things to reduce expenses. Nor could they export the work. FCC regulations prevented any of that.
So the Captains of Industry got the regulators, and the regulations, changed.
Over a number of years they succeeded in all but eliminating the concept of the skilled, knowledgeable, *licensed* Radio Operator under the banner of "deregulation". Saved lots of money and aggravation. All we have left now on the commercial side are bits and pieces of the old rules and requirements.
Since they did it for commercial services, they didn't see any reason not to apply the same ideas to the Amateur Service. Why should amateurs have higher requirements than "professionals"?
The difference is that the Amateur Radio Service is still all about the technically knowledgeable, operationally skilled Radio Operator.
Some folks just don't seem to understand the Radio Operator concept. Or if they do, they want to stamp it out forever.
Think about that when you see folks saying that there's "too much regulation" and "government is too big" and such.
73 de Jim, N2EY