Guilding the Lily

2005-05-03

Markets work. One person offers a product or service, a second person buys that product or service, a third person may ask the second person for a recommendation, the desire for reputation (and more business) leads most sellers to try to be ethical, competition leads sellers to offer high value for a good price -- well, you get the picture.

The fact that (in general) markets work -- and work well -- makes me wonder about the supposed need for occupational licensing. Think about it: would it be right for the government to require you to have a license in order to do your job? Let's say you live in Denver, Colorado and your dream job is to run auctions, dance the striptease, recycle auto parts, apply body art, run a dry cleaners, be an escort, run a gravel pit, make or sell ice cream, collect junk, offer massage services, be a security guard, run a parking lot, pedal a rickshaw, sell second-hand goods, drive a taxi, trim trees, be a valet, start a towing service, or any of a number of other occupations. Well, don't dream for long, because you need a license before you can make your dreams a reality.

Is there any reasonable justification for these occupational licensing restrictions? (Emphasis on the word "reasonable".) Are these regulations at all fair, especially to women, minorities, immigrants, and the poor? Some folks say "if you want peace, work for justice". I say "if you want justice, work for freedom".


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal