Dr. Byron Schlomach is an economist and works as the Director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Goldwater Institute. He has 15 years of experience working in and around state government. He has researched and written on tax and spending policy in two states in addition to studying transportation, health care, and education policy. Byron’s writings have appeared in National Review Online, Business Week online and numerous Texas and Arizona newspapers. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University.
Six Reforms to Occupational Licensing Laws to Increase Jobs and Lower Costsby Byron Schlomach
Every state licenses medical doctors, lawyers, nurses, and
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Do you have a love of fabric, furniture, and a talent for decorating? In a few states, unless you have a license, it’s tough luck if you want to start a decorating business. Most states actually have laws that limit the use of the title “interior designer.”
Every state licenses medical doctors, lawyers, nurses, and chiropractors—professions that most people would say should be licensed. Every state also licenses architects, surveyors, and cosmetologists—professions that some people might be less likely to agree should be licensed. The vast majority of states license other professions such as accountants, athletic trainers, insurance agents, massage therapists, and private detectives. Then there are states that license animal caretakers, craft artists, and even librarians.
Then there are the infamous African hair braiding cases. Across the country, cosmetology boards are shutting down businesses run by African immigrants where they braid people’s hair into intricate patterns using no chemicals or dangerous products. They want these hair braiders to go to cosmetology school and become licensed, even though the vast majority of schools don’t even teach the technique of African hair braiding.
More and more, licensing represents a growing barrier to entering all sorts of occupations. Economic research shows that licensing makes services more expensive and makes it more difficult—often unnecessarily so—for people to enter a new profession. In Arizona approximately 85 professions are licensed and licensing costs the state an estimated $660 million in lost economic activity.
Reforming licensing could open career opportunities and reduce the costs of services without sacrificing consumer safety. This paper recommends six reforms:
1. Create a “sunrise” provision that requires advocates of new licensing proposals to prove their need before they are approved.
2. Require that all licensing laws are periodically reauthorized after a rigorous review process.
3. Require licensing boards to have a supermajority of members drawn from the general public rather than the profession itself.
4. Replace mandatory licensing with voluntary certification.
5. Enact legislation protecting the right to earn a living.
6. Expand the scope of practice for some professionals, allowing them to perform more services.
These reforms would boost job creation and economic activity, as new career opportunities became available in areas once difficult to enter because of costly and often unnecessary licensing requirements.
- Goldwater Institute
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