License to Work – Institute for Justice

Source: “License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing” – Institute for Justice, by Dick M. Carpenter II, Ph.D., Lisa Knepper, Kyle Sweetland and Jennifer McDonald

The share of American workers needing a license to work has climbed steadily in recent decades, from 1 in 20 workers in the 1950s to roughly 1 in 4 today, … Research suggests this growth is not primarily due
to more workers leaving the farm and the factory for traditionally licensed fields like medicine and law. Instead, the main driver is new laws expanding licensing into previously unlicensed occupations.

The U.S. Constitution protects the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government interference, yet courts have often been reluctant to enforce this right by striking down arbitrary or irrational licensing laws. In fact, under the prevailing legal standard, licensing laws are presumed valid when challenged in court, and individuals must prove that they are unconstitutional. This gets it exactly backward. Governments should have to prove that licensing laws advance legitimate health and safety concerns to justify restrictions on the right to earn a living.