Sometimes, I am really grateful for occupational licensing laws.
For example, if I ever require legal assistance, I want to be able to reasonably assume that the lawyer I hire actually knows the law, as determined by some outside standard. Similarly, my doctor impacts my physical wellbeing and I appreciate having a dependable outside source telling me that she really is the expert that she says she is.
But there are many other professions where I suspect occupational licensing might be doing more harm than good. Buzzfeed recently came out with a humorous list of some of these jobs, which include:
- Fortune tellers
- Interior designers
- Makeup artists
- Tour guides
The licensing requirements in many states for these professions involve hours of expensive, irrelevant classwork. For example, aspiring makeup artists in Nevada have to complete seven hundred hours of coursework. Eyebrow threaders in Texas have to get past 750 hours of coursework that costs $21,000.
[pq]Will licensing laws bar people from discovering fulfillment in the profession that best suits them?[/pq]
Unlike the licensing requirements that govern the legal and medical worlds, the occupational licensing requirements for florists, interior designers, etc. are not completely—or even primarily—about consumer safety. If the nature of these professions does not convince you of that, the amount of money and time needed to obtain a license should.
Instead, organizations like the Institute for Justice maintain that these occupational licensing requirements stem from already-established professionals who lobby for legislation that makes it harder for new professionals to enter the field. This is great for existing professionals because it handicaps their competition.
However, all of these requirements and regulations have harmful consequences:
- They discourage entrepreneurship. What fledgling businessperson has time to complete hours of expensive coursework and testing for a profession where such requirements are largely unnecessary?
- They raise prices and limit options for consumers. When only established professionals are in a market, they can set higher prices. The customers never get the chance to benefit from the young and innovative talent that could have existed without the regulations.
- These regulations keep people from experiencing the dignity of work.
The last point brings to mind a quote from Dorothy Sayers:
…[W]ork is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.
Work is an opportunity for personal development—an opportunity to think beyond one’s self and reach new levels of excellence. It is an opportunity for self-expression—a chance to demonstrate creativity, show what you are good at, and even have an outlet for what you enjoy doing. Finally, it is a way of serving other in society—an ability to provide goods and services that you can easily offer in exchange for things that others can easily offer.
But if you have to pay several hundred dollars and hours of time to get a license that isn’t necessary for the profession, doing what you love and loving what you do becomes a lot harder. It can make inaccessible the professions where you can serve others best and find the most fulfillment.
This time, cronyism isn’t just about money. The stakes are much higher: Will occupational licensing laws bar individuals from discovering the dignity and fulfillment in the profession that best suits them?