In the 1950s, 1 in 20 workers needed government permission in the form of a license to work. Today licensing has ballooned to ensnare 1 in 4 workers. Most of that expansion is new license regulations for previously unlicensed occupations and the broadening scope of existing licenses.
Licenses are now required not just for doctors, dentists, and lawyers but also for shampooers, makeup artists, travel agents, auctioneers, and home entertainment installers. According to the Council of State Governments, 1,100 occupations were licensed in 2003.
State lawmakers once uncritically accepted dubious arguments for licensing rooted in quality assurance and public health or safety. Only in the past decade have they started paying attention to licensing’s substantial effects on wages, consumer prices, and unemployment. Today, state legislators have begun to view licensing for what it often is: naked rent-seeking behavior, compelling would-be entrepreneurs and workers to buy expensive and needless training to secure a license.
I’m licensed to practice medicine in 11 states. That’s 11 fees, 11 renewal deadlines to keep track of, 11 slightly different continuing education requirements, etc. It’s crazy. Medicine is medicine, whether you’re in Florida or Alaska. There should be a national medical license. It’s just a money grab for the states.