“Occupational licensing laws harm workers, as well as consumers who purchase services from professionals that require licensure,” says Tyler Bonin in this week’s Acton Commentary. “This harm is disproportionately placed on economically disadvantaged populations. Thus, when examining the effects of excessive occupational licensing in the U.S., it becomes apparent that these laws present an undue burden on one’s right to livelihood.”
In the U.S., the number of occupations requiring licensure from state governments rose by nearly 25 percent between the early 1950s and the year 2008. Governments usually cite licensure requirements as necessary to protect the health and welfare of its citizens, as well as for providing increased consumer protection. The types of licensure requirements vary from state to state and today cover a myriad of professions. Everything from dentists and doctors, to interior designers and florists, require licensure in many states. The disparity in license requirements hampers professional mobility across state lines, as well. In fact, the very existence of wide-ranging professional requirements among the states speaks to the capricious nature of licensing boards. Licensure requirements have thus served as a cartel, or a form of professional protectionism.