Arizona Rolling Back Occupational Licensing

OK, the state of Arizona isn’t going to be confused with a bastion of big government, but it’s notable, still, that our sun-baked neighbors to the south have started to sour on occupational licensing. The state has a bill pending that would end licensing for a number of professions, including landscape architects and geologists.

Here’s the money quote:

“Believe it or not, the state of Arizona actually licenses talent agents. Let’s leave the job of finding new talent to (“The Voice” hosts) Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani, not state government.”

Makes some kind of sense – after all, is our world so much more complicated that we need 30% of people to be in licensed professions (compared with 5% in the 50’s)?

Predictably, the hoo-haw against this bill (raised, of course, by licensed professionals and their associations) is based on appeals to consumer protection.

That’s not necessarily wrong. There are professions where licensing helps protect the public. But there are plenty – hello, vegetable packers and hair braiders – where the connection between licensing and consumer protection is tenuous, at best.

And even in historically-licensed areas like the law, where legitimate consumer protection interests abound, the scope of licensing often far exceeds that necessary to protect the public. Besides the perils of over-regulation, this focuses attention on “creative compliance” and exclusion of even the hint of competition, rather than protecting the public. That serves no consumer well.

Here’s hoping that a newfound enthusiasm for questioning occupational licensing helps reinvigorate this fundamental purpose of the licensing regimes – rather than just playing lip service to it as a means to preserve a monopoly.

Update 4/5/16: Looks like North Carolina is getting in on this action as well.