The real-world stories of Wisconsinites cheated out of their livelihoods
Research and stories show the need for occupational licensing reform in Wisconsin. Authors include Ike Brannon, Logan Albright, Scott Niederjohn, Mark Schug and Jan Uebelherr.
Cassie Mrotek just wants to work.
Krissy Hudack is trying to do one of the toughest and most essential things in America: Start a small business in a small, rural, northern town where most folks don’t make a lot of money.
Neither one of them, or countless thousands of other Wisconsinites who aspire to better jobs and lives, is asking for state government to do anything other than get out of the way. We publish “Government’s love for licensure” today because we think it’s a fair request.
All of us are probably thankful that the doctors who plunge scalpels into our bellies are licensed. But the state – which early in the 20th century licensed only 14 mostly medical-related professions – now demands licenses for over 200 other professions as well, including auctioneers, landscape architects, interior designers, geologists, manicurists and Christmas tree growers. Next thing you know, you’ll need a license to grow a white beard and dress up like Santa.
Two of our authors, Ike Brannon and Logan Albright, say the ever-growing state requirements were originally meant to protect the public. Nowadays, unfortunately, the requirements are often just a way of fencing out potential competitors – although many of those already licensed aren’t crazy about all the ongoing hoops they have to jump through, either.
Some of our elected officials in Madison see the problem. Two bills have been introduced this spring to scale back licensing in a number of professions. We encourage legislators pondering these bills to read the stories of Cassie and Krissy (and use a QR code-reader on their smartphones to watch the WPRI videos about them) and keep in mind that occupational regulations often have a disproportionate impact on impoverished, minority communities as well.
Gov. Scott Walker, meanwhile, is proposing the creation of an Occupational Licensing Review Council and is also recommending reform of the teacher licensure system.
We agree that a mechanism needs to be set up to examine exactly which requirements should be abolished and which are truly necessary. Brannon and Albright – citing the difference between “search goods,” “experience goods” and “credence goods” – present a rough framework for how this committee can distinguish between the licensing requirements that are necessary and the ones that are damaging.
As for teacher licensure, you’ll also see in this special report that professors Scott Niederjohn and Mark Schug think it’s time for fundamental change. So do we.
America is increasingly bifurcated. Stagnant wages and lack of upward mobility have eroded the fundamental aspirational belief in opportunity and self-betterment. A dispiriting and stultifying ennui seems to have infused and even embittered folks who see no way up, who think the system is rigged. People like Cassie Mrotek and Krissy Hudack are more optimistic. They clearly still believe in the fundamental promise of hard work and a better future.
It would be an injustice and a very sad one if the state remains in their way.