Occupational Licensing Reform Gains an Unlikely Boost from the FTC: New at Reason

In the fight for economic freedom, entrepreneurs and consumers get new support against self-serving interests.

J.D. Tuccille writes:

"The health and safety arguments about why these occupations need to be licensed range from dubious to ridiculous," Federal Trade Commission Acting Chair Maureen K. Ohlhausen says about her push to roll back government-mandated licenses for an ever-growing list of jobs. "I challenge anyone to explain why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the public from rogue interior designers carpet-bombing living rooms with ugly throw pillows."

Federal concern about the proliferation of occupational licensing requirements isn't exactly brand new. Last year, the Obama administration announced $7.5 million in grants to organizations working to reduce licensing requirements. That's a year after the feds published a report noting that "By one estimate, licensing restrictions cost millions of jobs nationwide and raise consumer expenses by over one hundred billion dollars."

Government officials may be honestly interested in the threats to competition, job opportunity, and consumer prices posed by licensing laws, but the issue also hits close to home. "Military spouses are especially affected by state occupational licensing requirements," noted a 2012 report from the Departments of the Treasury and Defense. "About 35 percent of military spouses work in professions that require state licenses or certification. They move across state lines far more frequently than the general population. These moves present administrative and financial channels."

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