Everyone Should Have an Opportunity to Prosper

Regulations often hinder people from work

The Wall Street Journal has a good "Weekend Interview" piece with Bob Woodson, head of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. The group works in low-income areas to foster entrepreneurship, value creation and faith-based enterprises.

The whole interview is interesting, but one part in particular relating to government mandates for occupational licensing stuck out:

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Mr. Woodson says that many poor communities don't need another government program so much as relief from current policies. 'For instance, a lot of people coming out of prison have a hard time obtaining occupational licenses,' he says. Aspiring barbers, cabdrivers, tree trimmers, locksmiths and the like, he notes, can face burdensome licensing requirements. Proponents of these rules like to cite public safety concerns, but the reality is that licensure requirements exist mainly to shut out competition. In many black communities, that translates into fewer jobs and less access to quality goods and services.

Often, the most important thing the government can do is simply not hinder people. Occupational licensing — mandating fees, classes, training and more for someone to get or hold a job — mostly serves to protect some people and businesses from competition and has no proven safety benefits.

In Michigan, the state heaps particularly burdensome mandates onto barbers, security guards, trainers, cosmetologists, painters and an assortment of low-level contractors.

To enhance competition and help consumers, this needs to end. House Bill 4641 would be the best antidote, because it gets to the root of the problem — prohibiting government units "from imposing occupational licensure without proof of valid public health and safety concerns, and when licensing is beneficial, requires the least restrictive method of obtaining it. It also allows workers to sue the state if a regulation excessively burdens their right to earn a living; if a court agreed, the mandate would be thrown out."

If politicians want to truly help the little guy, more needs to be done to eliminate needless regulations.

As Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has said: "As a pro-poor rule of thumb, I suggest this: If you want to start a landscaping business, all you should need is a lawn mower, not an accountant and a lawyer to help you hack through all the red tape before setting up shop."

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