The Onerous, Arbitrary, Unaccountable World of Occupational Licensing

By Michelle Cottle

For all Donald Trump’s flightiness and lack of ideological moorings, in one regard at least, the guy is reasonably steadfast: If Barack Obama supported something, he wants to blow it up or roll it back. Save for filling Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat—which, really, should count more as a win for Mitch McConnell—arguably 45’s most noteworthy feat thus far has been his dogged quest to unravel his predecessor’s legacy.

Which makes it oh-so-interesting to encounter the rare policy parallels between his administration and the last. Among the more sizzling examples to surface of late: the need to overhaul occupational licensing.

I know what you’re thinking: What kind of sad creature considers occupational licensing a hot topic? But with more than one in four U.S. workers now required to hold such a license, the answer absolutely should be: everyone.

An occupational license is basically a government permission slip to do certain work. In many places, before one can become a makeup artist, taxidermist, massage therapist, and so on, one must first jump through a variety of hoops—attending classes, taking exams, and paying fees—mostly set at the state level. (Federal and local authorities are fringe players in this game.)

In theory, such licensing protects consumers from being harmed by incompetent or fraudulent providers. (No one wants to get deep into labor only to discover that her midwife can’t tell an umbilical cord from a baby toe.) In practice, however, the process has sprawled far beyond questions of public health and safety, morphing into an onerous, arbitrary, unaccountable mess that, in far too many cases, is less about consumer protection than about economic protectionism.

How does a state decide to license a particular occupation? Typically, workers in that field lobby legislators to establish such a system. Licensing requirements are then determined, and the system is overseen and …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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