Occupational licenses benefit the public?

Recently a columnist attacked the surge in occupational licensing on the pages of the Albuquerque Journal. We at the Rio Grande Foundation have said many of the same things in critiquing the amount of and necessity for licensing.

Amazingly enough, someone (a self-described social worker) took it upon themselves to defend occupational licensing, the growth of which has been criticized by none other than the Obama Administration. Shockingly-enough, social workers are licensed in a vast majority of US states including New Mexico.

The columnist made several misguided points:

1) Safety: Studies on licensing requirements have found that licensing does not actually improve public health and safety. In its survey of twelve studies, the report identified only two that found that stricter licensing requirements increased the quality of services.

2) Licenses are career goals: so what?

3) Licenses lift people out of poverty: This is the craziest of all the author’s points. Raising the costs of entering a profession does not help the poor. It may help those who can pay the price of admission to the “club,” but that isn’t the poor.

Government licensing, especially when it is a prerequisite for employment is a serious problem. Your car’s brakes are at least as important to your safety as the competence of your doctor, but the government doesn’t license brake mechanics. That is done privately.