3 Ways Congress Can Protect Economic Liberty and Curtail Occupational Licensing Abuse

Protecting economic liberty from state infringement.


Credit: wallyg / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

As Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted last week, the Obama administration recently issued a report detailing the numerous negative effects of occupational licensing regulations. "There is evidence," the report observed, "that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines."

Writing at the blog of the Pacific Legal Foundation, attorney Timothy Sandefur, a veteran litigator who has successfully challenged a number of occupational licensing schemes in court, commends the report for addressing this serious problem and suggests three things "Congress could do today to protect economic freedom more effectively." Here is a sampling of what Sandefur recommends:

Federal civil rights legislation that would more explicitly protect the right to earn a living. Such legislation would declare (again) that economic liberty is a fundamental human right which the states may not justly abridge….

Conditions on federal grants to the states. The federal government spends scads of money every year subsidizing job-training and education programs. It would not be too much to ask that in exchange for those grants, the states refrain from imposing licensing restrictions that do not protect public safety….

Antitrust reform. A few months ago, the Supreme Court decided the North Carolina Dental case, declaring that state regulatory agencies can sometimes be sued under the antitrust laws, if they are barring economic competition simply to serve the private interests of politically influential, established businesses. This was a welcome development, but it's also troublingly narrow. Congress could easily amend the antitrust laws to allow entrepreneurs to use these laws to defend themselves against abuse by state and local governments.

Read the whole thing here.