Americans for Prosperity official: Occupational licensing in Oklahoma creates obstacles to opportunity
By Robert Aery
Entrepreneurship has been a staple of the American dream since the founding of our nation. Today, however, the entrepreneurial spirit that once fueled the world’s greatest economic power is in dire condition. New business creation rates across the country, for instance, are at record lows. In fact, according to Gallup, American business closures now outnumber business start-ups.
Many scholars have noted the correlation between America’s entrepreneurial decline and the rise of policies restricting economic freedom. One example of those policies detrimental to entrepreneurship, which often escapes wide public attention, is overbearing occupational licensing laws.
Many Americans equate a license for work with specialized professions, such as those found in the medical or legal fields; however, states have expanded licensing to occupations beyond high-risk or even technically complex fields. Government reports indicate that the number of U.S. jobs requiring state licenses has grown by 500 percent since the mid-20th century. More than one-quarter of workers must now have a license for employment.
Training and other licensing requirements are certainly necessary in some professions. If a field is not particularly high risk or specialized, however, licensing can act only as an unnecessary obstacle to those seeking employment or attempting to start their own business. In addition, these laws can disproportionately affect low-income workers and entrepreneurs, ultimately acting as the barrier between poverty and prosperity.