Leef likes what he sees from the new U.S. labor secretary

George Leef’s latest Forbes column offers an early report card for U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Acosta, a former U.S. attorney and law school dean, has already made his mark by identifying one of America’s biggest obstacles to job growth and economic revitalization, namely occupational licensing.

In a speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual conference on July 21, Secretary Acosta criticized occupational licensing regulations on three grounds: they create a barrier to people who want to work; they impede mobility by anchoring people to the places where they are licensed; and they obstruct Americans who want to leverage technology to expand their employment opportunities.

In his address, … Acosta stated, “Certifying skills and specialized knowledge helps consumers. That is far different, however, from using licensing to limit competition, bar entry, or create a privileged class.”

Quite right, Mr. Secretary, although I think you overrate governmental competence in ensuring that workers are indeed competent in their fields. Competition and the need to establish and maintain a good reputation do at least as good a job as licensing by government officials in that regard, and without the harm done by legally blocking entry into the market.

Acosta’s crucial point is that occupational licensing is often used by interest groups simply as a means of preventing competition in their markets, thus raising prices for consumers (while lowering quality of service) and keeping enterprising people from finding good jobs.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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