The following was written by Convention of States President Mark Meckler and originally published on his Patheos blog.
One of the great things about America is that citizens can improve their lot in life. If you’re stuck in a no-end job, you can pick up your family and move to another state, where your occupation is more valued, where you can make more money, where you can prepare for retirement. Because our nation is a single market with complete freedom for citizens to move across state lines, Americans since the 19th century have packed up and moved to greener pastures.
Virginia Postrel has an eye opening article in Bloomberg that explains how government regulations discourage mass production, national distribution, and labor mobility. In fact, the American workers now seem “stuck.” Postrel explains:
“The interstate migration rate is half of what it was in 1980,” says Janna E. Johnson, an economist at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. One factor appears to be the high cost of housing in the most productive parts of the country. Another is the spread of occupational licensing.
About one in four Americans work in jobs that require licenses, up from a mere 5 percent in 1950, and the requirements continue to expand to new occupations. Each state determines its own licensing requirements, so a licensed professional in one state may find it hard to move to another. “A licensed public schoolteacher with a decade of teaching experience in New Hampshire is not legally allowed to teach in an Illinois public school without completing significant new coursework and apprenticeships,” write Johnson and her Minnesota colleague Morris Kleiner in a new working paper that tries to tease out how much licensing limits mobility.
Social scientists are trying to study this phenomenon, but it’s difficult to do since only 2.5% of the American population ever moves across state lines in a given year. One obvious fact is that it’s hard to move if your job requires that you serve the local community. After years of building up clients, it’s hard to replicate that customer loyalty in a different location — regardless of the regulations. However, regulations do play a role: “Individuals in licensed occupations with state-specific exam requirements move at a 31 percent lower rate between states than those with national exams.”
But national tests and state compacts for reciprocal licensing could make it easier for them to move. In fact, the licensed professions whose mobility is dampened most by state-specific tests — teachers and pharmacists — rarely depend on individual clients. They’re hired by institutions.
The good news is that making licenses more portable and limiting the fields that require licensing enjoys bipartisan support.
I’ve said this before as the President of Citizens for Self-Governance, and I’ll probably be saying it forever: Our nation was created by people who, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, were “free and who mean to remain so.” They weren’t about to give up their liberties to an overbearing government. After all, they revolted against a king to earn the right to live free. The government was necessary only to protect the citizens’ natural rights to life, liberty and property and was to act only in areas where the people intentionally granted authority.
It’s sad that our nation has devolved into a nanny-state that regulates the pioneering spirit out of its citizens. The American government should not be stamping out our entrepreneurship, it should be protecting our freedom to pursue economic happiness.
Overbearing regulations at the federal level are even worse. Help end the tyranny of the bureaucracy by joining the Convention of States team in your state.