Readers of this blog don’t need to be told about the awfulness of occupational licensing, but it is heartening to see the issue get a lengthy treatment in the Wall Street Journal today. I always find it humorous, if depressing, to read and write about licensing, in that you’ll get absurd gems of regulatory self-parody like this:

A shampoo specialist in Texas, for instance, learns about neck anatomy and must practice skills such as regulating water temperature.

and

In Michigan, for instance, it will soon be a felony to practice massage without a license… But a grandfather clause exempts most current massage therapists, including those who may never have taken a class at an accredited school.

and

In Kentucky, the Board of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists has eight full-time inspectors who spend much of their time responding to anonymous tips about unlicensed manicurists. The inspectors rarely catch the alleged offenders, says Charles Lykins, the board’s administrator, because “they take off running.”

and

If Kimberly Raisanen has anything to say about it, cat groomers might one day make it onto the list, too. Ms. Raisanen, a groomer in Fairview Park, Ohio, helped found the Professional Cat Groomers Association of America in 2008 to establish better education standards for the animal specialists who trim, clip, style and fluff felines.

On the plus side, the WSJ reports that McKinsey has a large report on occupational licensing coming out where they will call for reforms to get rid of “unnecessary regulatory barriers that limit competition in pockets of the economy.” Contra Tyler Cowen, this is low hanging fruit.

Overall the article is excellent and even discusses labor mobility issues. You couldn’t ask for a better story on this issue in a major newspaper, and the reporter Stephanie Simon deserves praise for this. The title of this post is “Occupational Licensing on the Rise”, but perhaps this article and the upcoming McKinsey report are heralding in a new era of skepticism and reform of licensing.

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