All Commentary
Sunday, November 1, 1987

Book Review: The Rule of Experts: Occupational Licensing in America by S. David Young

Cato Institute, 224 Second Street, S.E_, Washington, D,C, 20003 1987 • 99 pages $7.95 paperback

Occupational licensure is a political process whereby various trades and professions are enabled to erect barriers against competition through the enforcement power of the state. Some 640 occupations in the United States require registration, and some 490 are currently licensed. This procedure limits consumer choice, raises consumer costs, increases practitioner income, and restricts entry opportunity without a demonstrated improvement in quality or safety beyond that provided by private certification.

Licensing confers monopoly advantages which enable practitioners of hundreds of services to charge above-market prices. The wealthy can afford to pay but the poor are often forced to do without. It’s as if those who cannot afford a Cadillac are forbidden to buy a Honda.

But do we not need licensing to insure quality service and weed out quacks? No, says the author. Private certification which limits the use of certain titles—Realtor, for example,and other nonintrusive mechanisms would afford substantially the same protection, without violating any basic freedoms.

(Tommy W. Rogers is an attorney in Jackson, Mississippi.)