Licensing Requirements Help Trade Associations More Than Consumers

The state licenses many professions from barbers to engineers. House Bill 6374 would greatly increase the government control of hundreds of professions. Introduced by Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Township, the bill would prohibit license renewals unless an individual has taken a "continuing education course."  Currently professionals that are licensed by the state must demonstrate "professional competence."

In my experience as a government regulator, I observed that the impetus for state licensing seldom comes from consumers but instead professional trade organizations. These trade organizations often have a vested interest in protecting their members by supporting licensing requirements that limit competition.

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Few would argue that professional credentials are important, especially for professions such as doctors treating patients or structural engineers designing bridges, but state licensing requirements for many professions — such as barbers — have a questionable benefit and come at cost that is passed on to consumers. In addition, state bureaucracies must be built up to support the licensing requirements.

The benefits are elusive at best from requiring continuing education for hundreds of professions. The costs of these additional licensing requirements, however, are real. An argument can be made that Michigan needs less, not more, regulation.