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guild-ed age
Wisconsin Takes Aim at Occupational Licensing

In recent years, Republican governments in Midwestern states have taken the lead in cutting back on blue model bloat in areas like public employee unions and higher education. Now legislators in Wisconsin are looking to address another policy area where decades of bureaucratic decay has helped insiders at the expense of those trying to move up: Occupational licensing. The Associated Press reports:

A new council would be created to review the necessity of every occupational licensing requirement in Wisconsin under a bill being circulated for co-sponsors.

The measure unveiled Wednesday would require the submission of a report by the end of 2018 that recommends elimination of licenses and other changes rules and requirements. The Legislature in 2019 would then consider approving the recommendations.

There is a virtual consensus among economists that state-enforced training requirements for a variety of low to mid-skill jobs, from catering to hair-braiding to interior decorating, have grown excessive, exerting a major drag on economic growth and employment—especially for people who don’t have the time or money to take thousands of hours of costly courses to practice a basic trade that isn’t particularly dangerous and whose skills can easily be judged by consumers.

Licensing requirements for low-skilled work have exploded over the past decades for no other reason than that professional guilds have been able to capture state legislatures and used them to help entrench their market positions. Legislators in other states should follow Wisconsin in scrutinizing existing occupational licensing programs and assessing which ones actually serve the common good and which ones exist to protect narrow and well-connected interests.

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  • Andrew Allison

    You’re right of course, but what in the name of goodness is “a virtual consensus”. Consensus means general agreement and, in this contest, virtual means the same thing.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The link says Wisconsin has 244 license types. We’ll know what this is about when the list of those to be eliminated is actually enacted.

  • Jim__L

    You know, voluntary / optional certifications might not be a bad idea. Best if they are privately run, though.

    If you trust someone in your neighborhood to take care of your kids, they don’t have to get a license to do it, but if you don’t know anyone in your area but want to see a cert of some kind to establish that trust, it makes sense to get one.

    No government coercion necessary.

    • f1b0nacc1

      While I agree with you, let me point out that simply making it private doesn’t always have the happy results you would hope for. Look at university accreditation, for instance, which is almost entirely private. It is the most corrupt, self-dealing mess you can imagine (almost completely taken over by the ed-school mafia), yet there isn’t a trace of government involvement at all.

    • Andrew Allison

      Agreed, but the point is that licensure requirements are designed not to ensure qualification but to discourage competition, which is the subject of the post.

      • Jim__L

        Sometimes I get the urge to be constructive, and I try to make it a point to give in when that happens. =)

    • LarryD

      The certifying agency needs to be someone with an interest in seeing that the certifications are honest.

      The Insurance industry, back before they started shedding risk, would have had in interest in safety related certifications.

  • ——————————

    Except for plumbing and electrical, no licensing for any construction in Texas. No problems here, all houses and buildings still standing!

  • LivingRock

    Those seeking to break into the low to mid level skilled occupations are weary of the licensing requirements right up until they get liscensed. Then, of course, it’s a “safety issue”.

  • seattleoutcast

    Thank you, TAI for covering this important topic.

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