October 7, 2019
By Lindsay Lawrence

Should you have to seek permission from the government in order to work in the job of your choice?

Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches recently joined The Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project Explainer podcast to talk about how states occupational licensing laws affect workers and consumers. To work in their chosen field, people often have to satisfy a range of training and fee requirements, jumping through hoops to earn the needed government permission slip. Occupational licenses are intended to protect public health and safety by requiring a certain level of training in order to participate in a trade or profession. But often, states require occupational licenses for a wide range of jobs that have nothing to do with protecting the public. Today, about one in four jobs in this country requires an occupational license—that’s up from about one in 20 jobs 50 years ago.

Riches says that occupational licensing laws are frequently used by trades or guilds not to protect public welfare, but to keep out potential competitors. These laws fall disproportionately on lower-income Americans, since the time and financial costs to obtain a license can be prohibitive—and that makes it more difficult for them to move up the socioeconomic ladder. At the same time, these licensing requirements raise prices and reduce choice for consumers.

Fortunately, in Arizona, there has been a lot of movement toward making it easier for people to earn a living. Earlier this year, Arizona became the first state in the nation to recognize occupational licenses from other states, allowing new Arizonans to continue their careers more seamlessly when they move to the Grand Canyon State. This is particularly important for military families, who must move frequently: License mobility allows them to transition to their new home with less interruption. After all, you don’t forget how to practice your career just because you move across state lines, and Arizona law now reflects that fact.

When it comes to professions in this country, “too much stuff is licensed,” Riches said. That’s what drove the Goldwater Institute to develop another successful Arizona licensing reform: putting an end to the requirement that blow-dry stylists must obtain a full cosmetology license. When Arizona enacted this law this year, it became just the second state in the country (after Virginia) not to require a costly, time-consuming license for blow-dry stylists.

“People should be free to work in the job of their choice, and if they’re not hurting anybody and no harm is coming of it, the state should not get involved,” Riches said.

You can listen to the full podcast above or here.

Lindsay Lawrence is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.

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