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guild-ed age
The Licensing Disaster

The New York Times has a deep dive into the rolling catastrophe that is America’s occupational licensing regime. Some bits:

Over the years, states across the country have added licensing requirements for a bewildering variety of jobs, requiring months or years of expensive education, along with assessing costly fees.

Today, nearly 30 percent of the American work force needs a license to work, up from about 10 percent in the 1970s, according to Morris Kleiner, a professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota, who has studied the issue. […]

Licensing boards are generally dominated by members of the regulated profession. And in Arizona, more than two dozen of the boards are allowed to keep 90 percent of their fees, turning over a mere 10 percent of the revenue to the state.

“They use that money to hire contract lobbyists and P.R. people,” Mr. Scarpinato said. “This is really a dark corner of state government.”

When people on the right say “job-killing regulations,” they usually are referring to health or environmental or social welfare rules that may or may not be wise but which actually have—or are intended to have—some kind of positive benefit for society at large. But a good chunk of America’s occupational licensing system—exemplified by the Times story about the animal masseuse ordered by Arizona’s veterinary board to stop practicing unless she paid a quarter million dollars for four years of veterinary school—falls into a different category entirely. These are cartels, plain and simple, that use state power to minimize competition and maximize rents, without any plausible justification besides self-interest. The result is an array of needless obstacles to gainful employment—especially for less-skilled workers and military families.

Excessive licensing—an impediment to work for millions of Americans—is the type of issue that a savvy center-right party would seize on. But after nearly six years of unprecedented state control of statehouses and governors’ mansions, red state licensing rules are no less oppressive than those of blue states. Perhaps these legislatures should spend less time waging gratuitous bathroom battles and more time ensuring that their governments don’t arbitrarily punish and fine hard-working citizens for trying to participate productively in the economy.

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  • f1b0nacc1

    “Perhaps these legislatures should spend less time waging gratuitous bathroom battles and more time ensuring that their governments don’t arbitrarily punish and fine hard-working citizens for trying to participate productively in the economy”

    That would offer insufficient opportunities for graft.

    • Andrew Allison

      It’s called regulatory capture. The, broadly-defined, “guilds” do everything in their power to eliminate competition. And of course that includes buying their way into monopoly positions.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Unquestionably true. There is nothing, however, that requires free citizens to allow them to get away with it.

        • Andrew Allison

          Nothing except their lack of ability to grasp what is being done to them. The Sheeple are in the majority.

  • Fat_Man

    ‘Perhaps these legislatures should spend less time waging gratuitous bathroom battles”

    It was Obama and the leftist agitators that started the whole thing. Apparently, TAI thinks that when our elders and betters in the leftist media and the white house tell us what to do, we should take off out cloth caps, tug on our forelocks, and say: “thy will be done, master”.

    • Andrew Allison

      Sorry, but you are mistaken. Regulatory capture by “guilds” is a long-standing (like since the dawn of civilization) problem. The insistence that we do what are progressive “better” tell us too is a different issue.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Guilds were one of the major roadblocks to an efficient labor market in olden days. Now dozens of jobs which any intelligent person with a few hours of study can do, require a license. The only good thing about this is that it protects some of the jobs for Americans, from the massive numbers of legal and illegal immigrants.

  • QET

    Unfortunately, as our population has dumbed-down in recent decades, these cartel schemes become easier to sell to the people. The collective economic ill effects are, even when presented in a simplified form, hard to understand for an impatient, uneducated populace accustomed to getting “the facts” from Twitter and Vox and who respond to anything that requires longer than 2 minutes to read with “tl;dr”. Whereas the media love to periodically foreground the story of the unlicensed animal masseuse who killed some poor animal that she didn’t realize had a genetic spinal cord defect, or the unlicensed hair stylist who applied dye the client was allergic to, as “evidence” that licensing is necessary.

    So, contra TAI, no center-right party, savvy or not, will be capable of overcoming the molecular bonds holding together politicians and bureaucrats who are told that unless they devise more new regulations than they did last year they are not being “productive,” existing practicioners who want to limit competition wherever and however they can because that is human nature, and narcissistic moralists in the media and on the internet who are psychologically driven to constantly demand that “somebody do something” every time a person suffers even the slightest injury or inconvenience.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Well, the last paragraph is particularly-good sense. One would “think” the Right would be concerned about this and we now have some accumulating evidence that red statehouses have very little interest in it. Bathroom bills, however, are useful (in some states) for votes from the “base”.

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