by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina requires a license from the government to be employed in countless professions. Everything from being a taxidermist to a barber requires a license from the state. As JLF’s Jon Sanders writes:
In the best of times, occupational licensing was a notorious public-choice problem.
However, right now we are not in the best of times. We are coming up on what looks like some of the worst times for employment. In getting people back to work, unnecessary occupational licenses are more than a nuisance, they are a significant obstacle keeping the unemployed from entering the workforce after a momentous market downturn.
In the post-COVID economy, unnecessary licensing will be intolerable impediments to getting people back to work, providing for their families as quickly as possible and as best they can. Other states have already prevailed against the public-choice tides and passed significant reforms. North Carolina policymakers can learn from them and improve on their efforts in this harsher environment.
Licensure is the most restrictive limitation the government can impose on an occupation. As Sanders, explains, there are many less restrictive options:
There are other things the government can do without being that extreme. They include: expand fraud protections, require inspections, require bonding, require registrations, and encourage and protect certification and credentialing. First and foremost, however, it is to trust private decisionmakers, private competitors, private review services and other information providers, and the backing of the courts.
There are many options that could lessen the burdens of occupational licensing. Sanders mentions:
Now more than ever, it is time to reconsider our occupational licensing arrangement in North Carolina and get people back to work.