Regulations Posted on February 14, 2017 | Op-Ed

SB1437, the Right to Earn a Living Act


The right to earn an honest living is a fundamental right.  We should all be free to pursue the job or career we desire so long as we are qualified and honest.  Unfortunately, regulators all too often restrict our ability to work without good reasons.  And those restrictions are often created not by elected lawmakers, but by unaccountable bureaucrats in regulatory agencies. But when courts are asked to defend the rights of America’s wealth creators, judges often ignore the problem.

That’s because today’s law provides little protection to those who are shut out of the job market by arbitrary regulations. When regulators impose restrictions on some rights—such as free speech or freedom of religion—they have to give good reason for doing so. When a person is arrested for a crime or if regulators interfere with a person’s right to vote, the agency bears the burden of proving that those restrictions are necessary.  But the reverse is true when it comes to economic freedom.  Rather than requiring the government to justify restrictions on the freedom of entrepreneurs and job-creators, today’s law presumes that agencies may take away that liberty except in rare cases.

That’s not how the Land of Opportunity should work.  Our system should presume in favor of the rights of entrepreneurs and require regulators to at least provide some good reason when it impairs a person’s freedom to get a job.

SB1437, the Right to Earn a Living Act, helps correct this problem by putting the burden of proof on the regulators instead. It provides that whenever the bureaucrats restrict people’s right to use their skills to provide for themselves and their families, they must show that there’s a need for that restriction—as opposed to today’s law, that puts the burden of proof on entrepreneurs who are only asking for the right to compete.

Of course, government should protect the public against unqualified or dishonest businesses, and the Right to Earn a Living Act does not stop government from doing so.  But regulators shouldn’t be free to impose arbitrary restrictions on hard-working entrepreneurs without good reason. 

SB1437 instructs courts to do the job they were hired to do: to protect business people the same way courts already protect the rights of other people. When regulators take away our freedom to run a business, they should show that its restrictions are necessary to protect the public. That may not seem like a radical reform—but it is a critical step toward restoring protections for the opportunity that has made this country great.


Jon Riches is the Director of National Litigation for the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation and General Counsel for the Institute. He litigates in federal and state trial ... Read

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