How do occupational licenses limit people, our economy, freedom? Let me count the way too many ways

If one desires to succeed in the job market, they not only have to be creative, ambitious, skilled, and responsible, they must also comply with government regulations. We teach children about the American Revolution and the sacrifices made for the future of Freedom and Liberty, but as adults we have become dangerously complacent with our rights. One of those rights is the freedom to earn a living. The individual is not truly free to pursue happiness if they have to get permission from government before they can work.

The individual is not truly free to pursue happiness if they have to get permission from the government before they can work.

Lubbock recently held its 7th Lemonade Day earlier in May. I love this event because it provides an invaluable opportunity for kids in the community to learn how to establish and run a business.  From a proposal for investors to lease agreements, partner shares, and loan repayment plans, these kids get all the basics of entrepreneurship and financial literacy, including a lesson in government licensing requirements.

If kids decide to open a business when they grow up and fail to get permission from government first, they could be heavily fined, shut down, or even forced to serve jail time if they do not comply. Yes, all of this even for a simple lemonade stand. Operating any enterprise without at license is risky business. It is no longer enough to learn a trade and work hard to provide quality services. You must also meet requirements that are not necessarily relevant to your profession.

Operating any enterprise without a license is risky business.

In Texas, there are more than 500 occupational licenses. The majority of people accept that government-mandated licensing programs should be applied to the industries of food, health, security and law, which I would argue is still less efficient than a free-market approach. These regulations can be very costly and can take a considerable amount of time for coursework which may not even be relevant to the services a person wishes to provide. But, let’s take a look at a few of the most ridiculous licensing requirements most of us can agree should be eliminated. Some are down right absurd!

If you are interested in becoming a barber or cosmetologist in Texas, be prepared to spend 1,500 hours in training which could cost you anywhere from $5-15,000. Eyelash extension specialists are required to take 320 hours of coursework. This skill seems obscure, but there is actually a market for eyelash extensions.

Eyelash extension specialists are required to take 320 hours of coursework.

Estheticians may now receive a license to perform facials in spas by taking 600 hours which includes aromatherapy and color psychology as part of the required curriculum. If they want to include manicures, they will need to complete 1,200 hours total.

Emergency medical technicians are only required to take 150 hours of training. Stop and think about that for a moment.

Emergency medical technicians are only required to take 150 hours of training. Stop and think about that for a moment.

In 2013, hair-braiding was subject to the increased burden of occupational licensing after the state of Texas tacked on additional regulations resulting in more than 2,200 hours of coursework requirements worth thousands of dollars in tuition fees. The Texas Legislature removed the licensing requirement for natural hair-braiding back in 2015 which has since opened up more opportunity to fulfill the demand for that market. Not surprising, there have been no health and safety incidents in this occupation after the licensing requirements were lifted. This case became a catalyst in opening the door to further deregulation of similar licensing restrictions all across the nation.

Here are some other unnecessary licensing regulations in Texas we should look to repeal next legislative session.

  • To be a combative sports promoter, the state requires you to pay $900 to apply and secure two $15,000 surety bonds. Licenses are also required for referees and contestants of combative sports.
  • A license to breed dogs and cats costs $300-$500.
  • To fish, you must also acquire a license.
  • Used automotive parts recyclers must also be licensed in Texas.
  • Around 30 states require a license for auctioneers. In Texas, auctioneers are required to take 80 hours of coursework and pay $100. This is a small price to pay compared to Tennessee auctioneers who are obligated to pay $750 and dedicate 755 days on education and experience.

In Tennessee, a woman was threatened with fines of up to $500 and possible jail time for just wanting to massage a horse! As a licensed massage therapist, after successful integrative massage treatment on her own horse, she received certification in horse massage from an equine therapy school in Indiana to start her own practice.  She was forcefully advised by her state she would need a veterinary license to do this specific task or face jail time.

In Tennessee, a woman was threatened with fines of up to $500 and possible jail time for just wanting to massage a horse!

Most veterinary degrees take just as long as it takes to become a medical doctor.  Even if she agreed to become a veterinarian, that degree plan would teach her nothing about massaging horses.

In New York, a new app was created for pet-sitting. What a great opportunity this could be for anyone to earn money while providing a simple service. A wildlife researcher decided to care for pets part time to make some extra money until he realized he would be fined a minimum of $1,000 for dog-sitting without a license.

That’s right, even an animal expert can be barred from handling pets without government permission. The city cited “health and safety” risks as justification. I do not think “health and safety” actually have anything to do with this outrageous policy.

In Oregon, an engineer from Sweden was slapped with fines for practicing engineering without a state license. The violation was for doing research on red light cameras and presenting it to the public.

Approximately 37 states require a license to be a tour guide. The state of Georgia once required a urine and blood sample, along with a fitness exam to issue a tour guide license. In Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana tour guide licenses cost $2,000 or more to obtain! Twenty-eight states still require a taxidermy license, 29 states for door repair contractors and 30 for drywall installation.  A whopping 41 states require a license for make-up artists. Skin care specialists in all 50 states must have a license with requirements of up to 1,000 hours of education and $400 in licensing fees. (Data obtained from the Institute for Justice License to Work Report, 2nd  Edition.)

37 states require a license to be a tour guide.

Thank goodness we are all being “protected” by government from these dangerous professions!

Let’s be honest.  These occupations do not pose enough of a threat to the general health and safety of the public to justify restrictions against people who want to work.  We are essentially allowing government to pick winners and losers.  If you are concerned with reducing the rate of unemployment and promoting self-sufficiency, it would be wise to examine the negative effect occupational licensing has on the job market.  Licensing requirements give more control of the markets to already established professionals or those who can afford training and licensing fees.  Work opportunities are created when we ease regulations like occupational licensing.

We are essentially allowing government to pick winners and losers.

Texas has made some great strides over the past few legislative sessions on occupational licensing, which has set a precedent for the rest of the country.  I hope we can continue to move in the right direction by reducing regulatory burdens and making it easier for people to work.

In April, the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institution (TCCRI) proposed the Occupational Licensing Consumer Choice Act. This model legislation offers an option for entrepreneurs to operate in their profession without a license, as long as they disclose their status to consumers.

This would return the responsibility of picking winners and losers to consumers instead of government bureaucracy.  In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to remove more than 15,000 licensing regulations, which reduced much of the barriers for entering certain professions.  Since then, we continue to see the rate of employment grow.

For me, occupational licensing really comes down to an attack on Liberty. Licensing programs do not ensure health and safety as much as they violate the individual’s fundamental right to work. They inhibit innovation, human advancement, and economic growth. The world will not fall apart if we eliminated the licensure system. Businesses would continue to respond to market demands while maintaining their bottom line or they would fail. We would not only survive the end of occupational licensing, but more of us would have a greater chance to thrive.