Can You Make a Living without a Government License?

One of the most interesting reform issues to have picked up steam in recent years is occupational licensing, and the expanding strange-bedfellows coalition that would like to see fewer professions that people need a government-issued license in order to practice.

John Stossel, for Reason TV, explains above how market incumbents “use occupational licensing to screw competitors and innovation in the name of keeping us safe.” He interviews Dick Carpenter, whose recent book, Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit, appeals to fair-minded readers across the political spectrum:

The Left, Right, and Center all hate them: powerful special interests that use government power for their own private benefit. In an era when the Left hates “fat cats” and the Right despises “crony capitalists,” now there is an artful and memorable one-word pejorative they can both get behind: bottleneckers.

A “bottlenecker” is anyone who uses government power to limit competition and thereby reap monopoly profits and other benefits. Bottleneckers work with politicians to constrict competition, entrepreneurial innovation, and opportunity. They thereby limit consumer choice; drive up consumer prices; and they support politicians who willingly overstep the constitutional limits of their powers to create, maintain, and expand these anticompetitive bottlenecks.

Fortunately we are now seeing significant movement on this front – both Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Secretary of Labor Andrew Acosta have announced licensing reform as a priority for their agencies, there’s a bill pending on Capitol Hill, and state policy groups like the Platte Institute for Economic Research in Nebraska are mobilizing support for state legislative reform. Platte’s Strong Jobs Nebraska project makes a compelling case:

About 24 percent of jobs in Nebraska require a government license, encompassing nearly 200 different professions, and many of us can’t afford the expensive and lengthy requirements.

Red tape regulation is placing a hidden tax on Nebraskans, too. Our current system of job licensing is costing your family over $900 a year.

Sometimes, Nebraska’s burdensome job licensing requirements are unheard of even in our neighboring states, creating unnecessary obstacles for Nebraska’s economy, and our low-income workers, military families, and new small businesses.

For more on state-level reform, join us at the State Policy Network’s 25th anniversary Annual Meeting in San Antonio at the end of the month.