NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cutting Local Regulations Key to Job Growth

July 29, 2011

By imposing onerous and usually pointless requirements on those wishing to enter a trade or line of work, state legislatures erect needless barriers around occupations perfectly suited for those entering the work force, midcareer switchers and pink-slip recipients, say Chip Mellor and Dick Carpenter of the Institute for Justice.

  • Only one in 20 workers needed the government's permission to pursue their chosen occupation in the 1950s, notes University of Minnesota Prof. Morris Kleiner.
  • Today that figure is nearly one in three.

The breadth of jobs requiring a license is remarkable.  Travel and tourist guides, funeral attendants, home-entertainment installers, florists, makeup artists and even interpreters for the deaf are all regulated by various states.

Proponents of such requirements justify these barriers by endlessly parroting the same worn-out phrase: public health and safety.  Yet if public health and safety were truly at risk, we would expect to see florists regulated in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., not just in Louisiana as they are now.

State legislators largely seem oblivious to the counterproductive effects of the licensure schemes they create.  This spring there was a ray of sunshine in the gloom of occupational licensure when Florida's new governor, Rick Scott, proposed a list of 20 occupations ripe for deregulation.

  • It included auctioneers, talent agents, ballroom dance teachers, hair braiders and interior designers.
  • The legislature took up the cause with apparent enthusiasm but then succumbed to the usual suspects of licensure advocacy -- industry trade associations, or cartels, eager to protect their state-granted shelter from competition.

Instead of looking to the federal government to create jobs, state legislatures could have a real and immediate effect on unemployment in their states by showing how less truly is more.  They can remove the barriers to job creation that their predecessors erected and enjoy the job-generating drive of their states' aspiring entrepreneurs, say Mellor and Carpenter.

Source: Chip Mellor and Dick Carpenter, "Want Jobs? Cut Local Regulations," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2011.

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