Volume 19

What Could Justify Occupational Licensing Requirements?

by Harrison Frye

Over the last seventy or so years, occupational licensing requirements, or legal restrictions on who can work within a particular profession, have ballooned. These restrictions on freedom stand in need of justification, particularly in light of the concern that such restrictions simply amount to illegitimate rent- seeking. In this paper, I argue that most possible justifications face severe problems. Ultimately, I argue that the most promising line of defense for occupational licensing requirements is that some professions may require aiming at a minimum threshold of quality. The reason for this is that, in the absence of a floor for quality, there would be unacceptable social effects. This justification, if successful, is limited in scope, and would not justify many requirements currently in force.

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