There is plenty of talk going around these days about political polarization, but occasionally the liberals and conservatives do come together and agree.
It was only a small NC legislative subcommittee hearing, but there they were, representatives from the conservative John Locke Foundation and the liberal N.C. Justice Center, agreeing there was too much regulation.
In this case, the regulations they were agreeing on involved 55 state commissions and state agencies that grant licenses to some 700,000 NC workers – such as doctors, attorneys or pastoral counselors.
Now, practically speaking, giving a Commission the power to determine who can be, say, an undertaker, gives that Commission a lot of control over the free market. They can literally determine how many funeral homes there are in a county.
NC, and other states, have long required licenses for professions like doctors and attorneys. And no one is arguing doctors shouldn’t be licensed.
But around 1973, the number of licensed occupations in NC started increasing like mushrooms after a summer rain.
Here’s where the two ends of the political spectrum agreed:
- Licensing creates a barrier to entry for workers in general, and particularly the poor, as they try to climb the economic ladder.
- Licensing raises the costs of services, which takes money out of everyone’s pockets, but hits the poor hardest.
- And, as a group, licensed professions experience slower growth rates than their unlicensed peers.
In other words, unnecessary licensing hurts workers, consumers and our economy.
Granted there are some obvious winners. If you already hold a license to be an undertaker, you find yourself in a protected environment that limits bothersome competition. That’s why people with licensees are quick to argue that uneducated consumers need the protection licensing offers. Without that extra bureaucratic protection, they say, people will be exposed to unnecessary risk from bad actors.
That may have been true 50 years ago. But in the age of smart phones and Yelp, there may be a better way to protect consumers than more bureaucracy.