How free are you to engage in the occupation of your choice? In Oregon the answer appears to be—not so much. No one is quite sure how many occupations actually require a license, but The Oregon License Directory currently contains 1,190 entries by 113 agencies. While items like drivers’ licenses and concealed carry handgun permits are included, many are occupational licenses, and those often take significant time and money to obtain. Also, the site warns that not all jurisdictions are even in the directory yet, so “adding these additional licenses may take years.”
Recently, one lobbyist told a legislative committee why he thought the state requires such licensing. He said:
“The only reason that the state of Oregon through the Oregon legislature licenses any individual profession or industry is to
protect the public health, safety and welfare. That’s it.”*
But that’s not the only reason. All too often, existing practitioners ask government to impose requirements that keep competitors and newcomers out of their markets, effectively denying them the right to earn an honest living. As one academic notes, “Occupational regulation has served to limit consumer choice, raise consumer costs…deprive the poor of adequate services, and restrict job opportunities for minorities—all without demonstrated improvement in quality or safety of the licensed activities.”
It’s time to greatly expand the right to earn an honest living in Oregon.
* Jim Markee, lobbyist for the Oregon Association of Cosmetology Colleges, testifying on HB 3409 (which reduced licensing requirements on natural hair braiders) before the Senate General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee, May 17, 2013. The quote starts at the 37:18 mark in the hearing audio archive.
Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.