Licensing is often nothing more than protectionism

I consider myself a libertarian leaning conservative.  There are several issues I disagree with libertarians on, but this is one area where I’m with them.

Most professional licensing schemes, under the guise of “protecting the public” are actually doing no more than protecting the current practitioners in the industry from competition.

They place another roadblock in the way of entrepreneurs who just want to try to make a living doing something they know how to do. Maybe hairdressing started out as a hobby, they discovered they were good at it and want to try to make it a career…not without hundreds of hours of mandatory training and paying often exorbitant licensing fees. And if they ply their trade without the license and are caught, end up facing the full fury of the government’s legal system. Fines, court costs, possibly even jail time.

I get the concept of “protecting the public” from people who hang a shingle but don’t have any idea what they’re doing, but the free market can take care of that just as easily, more efficiently and without all the heavy-handed government involvement.

Industries that want to have standard minimum requirements for entry can do so, they just have to convince people of the importance of that certification. The PHCC can create standards and certifications and then advertise that you should really only hire plumbers with PHCC certification.

If I’m an amateur plumber, I lose my day job and decide to go into that field to put food on the table, I should be able to hang my shingle. I can’t claim PHCC certification because I don’t have it, but if people are willing to hire me anyway, that’s between me and the people who hire me. There’s a good chance that my prices are going to be lower than “certified” plumbers. My customers get lower prices and I get to buy bread and milk this week. Win-win.

But by getting the government involved and making it illegal for me to operate, the currently certified plumbers are protected from competition and I have to go on food stamps. How is that beneficial to society?

Yes, it’s possible I could be a lousy plumber, but especially in this day and age of instant communication and Yelp reviews, my business wouldn’t last long. And that would only help to bolster the PHCC contention that you should only hire certified plumbers. No need to get the law involved.

That’s just an example. Unfortunately, no one I’m aware of is recommending the elimination of plumbing certifications and such…but at least one city is figuring it out.

Tuesday, the OKC mayor and city council got rid of 16 of the city’s 19 occupational licenses, calling them a form of government overreach.

“They were more just a nuisance. They were not justified,” said Mayor David Holt, who wrote the ordinance.

Holt said it lessens the burden on entrepreneurs.

Good on them. Don’t place unnecessary roadblocks in the path of people who are doing nothing more than trying to make a living. That’s the kind of thing we should be encouraging, not discouraging.


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