Are you at work right now? Did you ask the government for permission? If not, you could be looking at massive fines and jail time. Or if you’re a massage therapist in one Arizona city, you could be branded a prostitute.
Over the past 50 years, the number of American workers required to have a government license has risen from 5 to 30 percent of the workforce. State and local politicians can’t seem to resist the allure of occupational licensing. The fees create new government income and the barrier to entry protects existing businesses from new competition.
Usually state and local governments divide the spoils. States tend to license larger fields, like education, law, and health. Cities takes the smaller ones, like my personal favorite, fortune telling (one city-licensed psychic actually claimed it helped “get the riff raff out” of the industry).
But it seems some cities can’t resist double-teaming entrepreneurs already covered by state licensing requirements. In Bullhead City, Arizona, state-licensed massage therapists are being told that even though they already attended months of schooling, passed the state’s licensing exam, and paid substantial licensing fees, they’ll still have to eke out one more pound of flesh for the city’s coffers.
City officials told one state-licensed therapist that unless he also paid for and obtained the city’s massage therapy license, he would be considered a prostitute and arrested.
After learning of this local abuse, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council to explain that state law forbids the city from double-licensing massage therapy, and we requested the City repeal its license requirement immediately. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a reply.
Licensing schemes may be tempting for state and local governments, but the truth is they harm entrepreneurs, increase costs to consumers, and often violate the law. By loosening its grip on massage therapists, Bullhead City has the chance to emerge as a pro-entrepreneur city that favors enterprise over city income and freedom over control.
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