USA Today reports on the growing consensus across the political spectrum — from the Obama administration to the Koch brothers — that many occupational licensing laws are unnecessary obstacles to employment and do not provide any real benefit to public safety.

The article featured a chart based on survey data showing the share of state workforces that are licensed. Michigan borders three states that all have a lower portion of their population licensed.

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So the question is: Do you feel endangered when visiting Indiana, Ohio or Wisconsin? Each state has fewer licensing requirements than Michigan, so if licensing laws really did improve public safety, you should feel more at risk. Of course, there’s no evidence that you are actually less safe in these states.

According to a newly updated report from the Institute for Justice, “License to Work,” the burdens of licensing requirements in Michigan are among the highest in the Midwest.

Licensing laws typically get and stay enacted because special-interest groups argue they are necessary for public health and safety. But policymakers rarely test these claims when passing new regulations. Instead, occupational licensure protects existing practitioners and businesses from competition and unnecessarily prevents others from using their talents to make a living. This, of course, disproportionately harms people with low incomes and limited job skills. If Michigan policymakers want to help those with the most needs, they should start by removing barriers that prevent them from using their talents to earn a living.

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