by Alice Temnick


What licensed professionals do you interact with regularly? Your physician? Accountant? Lawyer? Manicurist? Interior decorator? Occupational licensing, as described in the “Bootleggers and Baptists” model, is blamed for the loss of two million jobs and reduced mobility of migration.

In this episode, Dick Carpenter and host Russ Roberts discuss the complicated federal, state, and city government legislation that intentionally, and successfully, keeps workers out of certain occupations.

1. The rationale for occupational licensing is to protect public health and safety. How might a similar “watchdog” function arise from free market competition, and to what extent would it look different from today’s licensure regime? What industry examples come to mind?

2. For what sorts of professions ought there to be licensing requirements? How can we know where to draw the line? (That is, it might be easy to agree about interior decorators, but what about the case of dental hygienists, as Roberts suggests?)

3. How does the intended cost of licensing ultimately incur increased consumer costs? (Bonus points if you graph it!) What do you make of the potential for increased “bottlenecking” at the national level as requirements are deferred to boards made up of education and industry experts? Is this better or worse than the sorts of local licensing requirements Carpenter describes? Why?

4. Carpenter points out the challenge in courts today regarding licensure issues as “this idea of the presumption of constitutionality of government intervention prevailing for a number of years”. How critical is the liberty and freedom to choose one’s occupation to the preservation of a free and responsible society?