EDITORIAL: Donald Trump’s FTC seeks to roll back protectionist occupational licensing requirements

The number of jobs that require permission slips from the government has mushroomed in recent decades. During the 1950s, fewer than 5 percent of workers needed some sort of license; today it’s about 30 percent.

Let’s hope a new task force launched by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will help reverse this unfortunate trend.

For some occupations — doctors, for instance — public safety and health concerns may justify occupational licensing standards. But licensing demands for a great many jobs serve as unnecessary barriers to men and women simply seeking to earn an honest living. Maureen K. Ohlhausen, acting chairman of the FTC, correctly characterized the rationale for some of these mandates as ranging from “dubious to ridiculous.”

In response, Ms. Ohlhausen announced last month the creation of the FTC’s Economic Liberty Task Force, which aims to partner with elected leaders and other officials in various states to eliminate and/or narrow “overbroad occupational licensing restrictions that are not narrowly tailored to satisfy legitimate health and safety goals.”

She correctly argues that the panel will offer recommendations that will help ramp up competition, boost job growth and customer choice, and drive innovation and quality.

“Consumers can, and do, easily evaluate the quality of interior designers, makeup artists, hair-braiders, and others,” Ms. Ohlhausen said. “I challenge anyone to explain why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the public from rogue interior designers carpet-bombing living rooms with ugly throw pillows.”

Nevada is one of the worst offenders when it comes to states erecting these types of unnecessary barriers. State lawmakers shouldn’t wait for the FTC to act before taking steps on their own to address this problem.

Advocates of aggressive occupational licensing efforts often argue that the regulations add a much-needed layer of consumer protection and make vocational training available for those who didn’t attend college. In reality, however, these rules are too often merely a thinly veiled way for industry groups to block competition. Ms. Ohlhausen recognizes this and it’s encouraging to see her pushing to do something about it.

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