It seems sensible to require some licensing for professions closely connected with public health and safety (e.g. doctors, dentists, dental hygienists), or positions that involve public trust (e.g. lawyers), but a new White House report chronicles the costs both to consumers and to workers of our current system, in which approximately 30% of the U.S. workforce is subject to licensing. That includes positions as diverse as auctioneers, scrap metal recyclers, and tour guides. Requirements vary state-to-state, drive up costs for consumers (by limiting competition), and increase barriers to entry into the workforce for many types of occupations. Among the groups hit particularly hard by these requirements are immigrants, those with criminal convictions, people who default on student loans, and military spouses.
(Why military spouses? They move a lot. And if disadvantaging those with criminal records doesn't seem like a problem, consider whether it's fair to create a permanent underclass of ex-cons, including many with non-violent drug offenses, living around the edge of society like modern-day Jean Valjeans with little chance for work to help rebuild their lives. For more, check out this resource guide from the National Employment Law Project.)
The White House report, available here, calls for a review and reduction of state licensing requirements. For a good distillation from reason.com, go here.