Letter: Licensing for safety does more harm than good

Published: 7/11/2018 12:01:09 AM

A recent letter of mine stated that the purpose of occupational licensing boards is to raise government revenues and protect those in the business by keeping others out. Space was unavailable to add that licensing boards also strive to ensure public safety.

That should stop. Overall, occupational licensing is harmful. It prevents the poor from obtaining jobs and causes higher prices for their purchases. These results outweigh the benefits of regulating public safety.

Let’s say that licensing for hairdressers is stopped. A customer is injured by a dye used to color her hair. She sues the hairdresser, the supplier and the manufacturer of the dye. The press furnishes publicity. The industry takes notice, and so does the public. After several of these episodes, most people would become concerned about safety.

But the regulators want to prevent those “several episodes.” They like controlling the lives of others, and they’re willing to make life harder for the poor to prevent a few extra safety problems. A wretched trade-off.

Most people would learn to take safety into account and select the businesses that serve them by buying from some and not from others.

If an association of hairdressers forms to keep out competition, they could be sued. If an association forms to maintain a certain quality of hairdressing, a competing association could offer a different quality. The government monopoly permits no competition.

Government licensing for safety, yes, even of doctors, nurses and lawyers, causes more harm than good. Let the buyers decide.



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