The first person is a brain surgeon. The second is a barber. Do both of these people really need to be licensed by the state?
But not the barber. Beyond bizarre mishaps with electric clippers, the consequences of poor training are a lot less severe. And because a bad haircut is painfully obvious to even casual observers, free market forces will work to enforce high standards.
That’s the point in a new study released by the Institute for Justice, a Washington policy group. “License to Work” examines burdensome occupational licensing rules.
They studied 102 “low income” occupations, excluding professions such as physician and school teacher.
And the licensing rules vary greatly.
“Licensure burdens often vary considerably across states, calling into question the need for severe burdens,” the study says. “For instance, while 10 states require four months or more of training for manicurists, Alaska demands only about three days and Iowa about nine days.”
A quick scan of the news reveals no widespread nail-related fatalities in either state.
How does Texas compare?
Here, 32 low-income occupations require licenses; they average 326 days of required education and experience, and an annual cost of $304.
The study warns that more and more trade groups are lobbying state legislatures to make new and stronger licensing requirements. But it’s not to protect consumers; it’s to protect the existing workers from competition.
There are plenty of alternatives to licensing for occupations such as florist and manicurist.
“For example, some of the ‘signaling’ benefits associated with licensing can be realized without the government restricting entry into occupations,” the study says. “Voluntary certification through professional associations can benefit practitioners by enabling them to distinguish themselves, while consumers remain free to choose among all providers and decide for themselves how much value to place on such credentials.”
That’s how automobile shops work; anyone can open a shop, but many consumers look for “ASE-certified” mechanics who have met the requirements of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.”
The Texas Legislature should heed this study and look at what occupations it could de-regulate. How about eliminating licensing for auctioneers, shampooers, travel guides and milk samplers, for starters?
“Reducing the breadth and burden of occupational licensure could help states realize significant economic benefits by freeing job-seekers to enter new occupations and enabling entrepreneurs to create new enterprises,” the study concludes.