Examining the Right to Earn a Living Act, part 1

The Supreme Court decision in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission in 2015 shattered states’ presumption that occupational licensing boards are automatically immune from federal antitrust actions. Since then, as I’ve shown in recent research and updates here, several states have begun reforming their occupational licensing systems.

North Carolina hasn’t joined them — yet.

As discussed in my report, the most comprehensive reforms were passed in Arizona, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Arizona and Tennessee each passed a Right to Earn a Living Act. Mississippi’s reform was structurally very similar.

Right to Earn a Living Act — what is it?

The appendices of my report contain the text of Tennessee’s law and the model Right to Earn a Living Act from the Goldwater Institute. What I plan to do over the next few days here is examine the Right to Earn a Living Act, one section at a time.

Let’s start with the statements of findings and purposes. The primary finding is this:

The right of individuals to pursue a chosen business or profession, free from arbitrary or excessive government interference, is a fundamental civil right.

This is no revolutionary statement in this state. It would require no heavy lifting ideologically from North Carolina policymakers. We already have the same basic principle inscribed in Article 1, Section 1 of the North Carolina State Constitution:

Section 1. The equality and rights of persons:
We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.

If protecting a fundamental civil right were the only reason to reform occupational licensing in North Carolina, it would be enough. But there are many, many, many, many other reasons than that.


Posts examining the Right to Earn a Living Act:

Part 1: A fundamental civil right
Part 2: A well-known path up from poverty
Part 3: Legitimate vs. arbitrary regulation
Part 4: Fewer jobs, higher prices
Part 5: Greater burden for poor workers and consumers
Part 6: Three main objectives
Part 7: Defining the terms
Part 8: A very high bar
Part 9: Defending the decision to license
Part 10: Challenging the decision to license
Epilogue: Securing rights on the local level, too

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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