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"Difficulty repaying a student loan debt should not threaten a graduate's job. It makes no sense to revoke a professional license from someone who is trying to pay their student loans," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bipartisan bill to "prevent states from suspending, revoking or denying state professional licenses solely because borrowers are behind on their federal student loan payments."
Assuming the bill passes, that's great as far as it goes. But it doesn't solve the underlying problem: Too many activities—a growing number—have quietly transformed from rights that we quietly exercise at will into privileges requiring state approval.
"As a general rule, until 1941, U.S. citizens were not required to have a passport for travel abroad," the National Archives report.
On a similar note, only about 5 percent of American workers needed licenses to do their jobs in the 1950s.
And, "In 1930, only 24 states required a license to drive a car and just 15 states had mandatory driver's exams. South Dakota was the last state to begin issuing licenses (without exams), in 1954," the History Channel tells us.
Those bureaucratic developments, all justified as improvements in safety and national security, put people increasingly under the thumbs of government officials and make us incredibly vulnerable to pressures and penalties that are entirely unrelated to our supposed transgressions. Get on the wrong side of a vindictive official or a mindless bureaucracy, and you're effectively subject to house arrest and an economic knee-capping.
Such government control over vast areas of our lives makes it very difficult to pretend that we're free. Free people don't fret that they may lose government permission to work and travel.
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