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.

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5 Replies to “Occupational licenses benefit the public?”

  1. As a practicing dentist in Washington state and editor of the monthly Dental Society Bulletin, I editorialized against the licensing of dentists, arguing that graduation from an accredited school of dentistry should be all the credentials needed to practice. This made me a virtual pariah among my colleagues.

    Licensure is sold as government protection of the public when it is really only a government-provided privilege or protection for those already so employed.

  2. “I editorialized against the licensing of dentists, arguing that graduation from an accredited school of dentistry should be all the credentials needed to practice. ”

    As long as it’s a certified and accredited school. I once graduated from a community college that lost is accreditation that year, and so went my job prospects. Now we have colleges passing student that aren’t even competent in core subjects like history, science and math. We have academic idiots running around!

  3. I have a bachelors degree majoring in social work and a masters degree in social work. I don’t agree after all the schooling we need licenses, especially for a job that only requires a bachelor. It’s all about money and regulation.

  4. There is some justification for state licenses for physicians, dentists and a few other professions. But… manicurists? hairdressers? bartenders? This is nothing more than a jobs program for bureaucrats and a barrier to business formation and employment. I recently had to subsidize my son because it took him six months to get a license in Wisconsin after completing a master’s in social work.

    I work with speech therapists who tell me that video conferencing is a potential breakthrough in delivering specialized services to underserved populations, but state licensing gets in the way.

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