What is Wrong With Occupational Licensing?

Abbot Brown in the wood-working shop at at St. Josephs Abbey in Covington, La. Louisiana told the monks they needed a license to build wooden caskets in the shop and sell them to the public.

Every American deserves the opportunity to earn an honest living. Yet occupational licenses, which are permission slips from the government allowing someone to work, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise. Without these licenses, workers can face stiff fines or even risk jail time. The arbitrary and excessive requirements for licensure, though, can be an enormous burden and often force entrepreneurs to waste their valuable time and money to pursue a license rather than actually working. These burdens too often have no connection at all to public health or safety. Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition.

For a growing number of Americans, gainful employment no longer requires convincing only a potential employer or customer of their value. It requires also convincing the government. This barrier to an honest living makes entrepreneurship more difficult in general. Furthermore, it can be an effective bar on entering many low-income occupations for people with less access to financial capital or formal education. These laws are wrong—economically, morally and constitutionally.  Consumers and employers, not legislators and bureaucrats, should decide who succeeds in which jobs. To expand economic opportunity and vindicate the basic constitutional right to economic liberty, IJ is dedicated to rolling back these unnecessary and harmful restrictions.

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