Occupational Licensure

As a result, a much greater number than ever before, solely concerned with adding to their wealth by any means whatsoever, sought their own selfish interests above all things; they had no scruple in committing the gravest injustices against others. Those who first entered upon this broad way which leads to destruction easily found many imitators of their iniquity because of their manifest success, their extravagant display of wealth, their derision of the scruples of more delicate consciences and the crushing of more cautious competitors. Quadragesimo Anno 134, Pope Pius XI

This type of government regulatory activity has two primary negative effects on the poor: (1) It hinders their entry into marketplaces regulated by licensing laws, and (2) it drives up the cost of licensed services. This is particularly a problem with health care (which will be discussed in a section of its own below), but it extends into many areas of life. The following list is meant to be illustrative, but is not comprehensive of all of the possibilities:

(i) Cosmetology licensing prevents poor people with skills, but without the proper papers, from cutting hair in their homes. It can require them to purchase expensive training (of sometimes doubtful reliability) in order to pursue their trade and inhibits apprenticeship training options.

(ii) Licensing of attorneys drives up the cost of legal services, and keeps poor people from defending themselves or using law clerks or paralegals for routine legal services.

(iii) Skilled tradespersons may not be able to freely offer their services to the public without licensing.

(iv) Dentists prevent denturists from offering low-cost dentures and other dental appliances on the open market.

Licensing procedures are typically controlled by the industry or profession being licensed. The ostensible purpose of protecting the public and ensuring some level of competence is always secondary to the need of the industry or profession to restrict the number of people entering the marketplace, thus protecting the profits and positions of those already licensed and established. (E.g., A recent Daily Oklahoman article noted that the state was suing to prevent a business from selling low-cost caskets directly to the public. The article reported accusations that the Oklahoma State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which regulates such sales, is completely controlled by the funeral home industry (Daily Oklahoman 4-10-97, "Suit Seeks to Stop Public Casket Sales," by Ed Godfrey). Catholic social teaching says that human beings and families predate the State and the marketplace. Thus, the right to work is primordial to the State. Regulations such as these which hinder lawful work violate the basic human rights of the poor.

Economic Discrimination Index..........Structures of Sin Index