Many candidates for state legislatures and governorships across the United States talk about scaling back the size, scope, and power of government.

Once in office, however, they find it to be no easy task. So much that was intended to be reserved to state governments, under the original Constitution, is now decided by elected politicians in DC or their unelected toadies in federal bureaus, commissions, offices, and regulatory agencies.

The result is that government control over the lives and property of American citizens extends farther and farther, while becoming stronger and stronger.

PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE

Here’s something state legislators and governors across the U.S. can do, should do, and for which there is no excuse not to do: Start abolishing professional licenses.

With few exceptions (such as the FAA issuing pilot’s licenses or the FCC issuing commercial radio repair licenses), the vast majority of professional licenses are within the jurisdiction of and authorized by state governments. It’s within the power of legislators and governors to revise and even eliminate crony licensure schemes.

So what’s the problem with professional licenses? Many of them are unnecessary, unjust, and flat out ridiculous. Professional licensure boils down to government prohibiting citizens from doing something productive unless and until they fork over money. To government.

IS SHE LICENSED TO DO THAT?

Examples of activities, services, and job titles that crony state lawmakers in various states think require a government license:

  • Auctioneer
  • Hair braider
  • Hair cutter
  • Interior designer
  • Makeup artist
  • Managing a Homeowners Association
  • Manicurist
  • Massage therapist
  • Selling a flower with a stem that has been cut
  • Selling a glass of wine or whiskey
  • Selling an opened bottle of beer
  • Selling an unopened bottle of beer, wine, or whiskey
  • Sign language interpreter
  • Taking dogs for walks
  • Topless dancing (no joke: check out Florida’s “Adult Entertainment Work I.D. Card”)

In every one of the jobs listed above, the pressures of market competition would solve any problems associated with incompetence or low quality of service.

COMPETITION SOLVES THE PROBLEM, NOT LICENSES

For example, how many people would know instantly if someone promised a beautiful hair braid and produced ugly tangled knots? Many. How many calls for appointments would that hair knotter receive in the future? Probably none.

Market competition always displaces lower quality with higher quality so long as markets remain free. And market competition becomes even more relentless, more inescapable, more effective at highlighting inferior quality products and services and dishonest business practices, in an era of social media and publicly available customer reviews.

Bottom line: Most professional licenses were never needed, and even less so now than in the past.

Yet, back in 1950, only 5% of working Americans were required by lawmakers and regulators to have a professional license. Today, however, more than 30% of all working Americans are required by lawmakers and regulators to have some kind of specialized license. That matters because:

  • Licensure, like all forms of regulation, increases operating costs and therefore makes things more expensive.
  • Licensure provides crony monopoly advantages for existing businesses and professionals by keeping out people who would compete in an industry if they didn’t have to purchase a license. That’s why professional associations often lobby government to increase licensure prices and decrease availability.
  • Less competition means lower quality.

LICENSES: HIGHER PRICES, LOWER QUALITY, & CRONY MONOPOLIES

Who feels the hit of licensure most acutely? Sadly, poor people trying to get a job, young people seeking entry-level work, and those looking to start their own business with limited capital.

And consumers, of course, who pay higher prices because of licensure.

Enough is enough. For state legislators and governors who talk the talk of scaling back government, start walking the walk: Repeal some licenses.

Any of them. Start with one. Just one. There’s your challenge: Abolish one crony license in your state. Are you up for it?