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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 192 of Daniel Boorstin’s wonderful 1958 volume, The Americans: The Colonial Experience:

Every professional field of learning [in Europe] bore a “No Trespassing” sign duly erected by legal or customary authority.  In the newer culture of America few such signs had been erected; from the sheer lack of organized monopolists, old monopolies could not be perpetuated.  America broke down distinctions: where life was full of surprises, of unexplored wilderness, and of unpredictable problems, its tasks could not be neatly divided for legal distribution.  Any man who preferred the even tenor of his way, who wished to pursue his licensed without the competition of amateurs, intruders, or vagrants, or who was unwilling to do jobs for which he had not been legally certified was better off in England.

Yes.  And yet many “Progressives” today continue to applaud, or at least remain silent about, occupational licensing – apparently in the belief that without restrictions imposed by government officials, ordinary men and women going about their business, as suppliers and as buyers in competitive markets, and spending their own money, each with his or her individual preferences, will harm themselves and others.  That officious intruders motivated chiefly by political consideration can improve upon market outcomes is one of the superstitions that haunt us to this day.  It’s a superstition that not only harms consumers by artificially reducing the number and range of outputs offered by licensed producers, but also denies to entrepreneurs opportunities to serve consumers in ways that they and consumers find mutually agreeable.  The only beneficiaries, other than politicians, of such a licensing raj are incumbent, politically influential producers who are shielded from the full brunt of competitive forces.

Fortunately, as Luke Hilgemann reports in the Wall Street Journal, the state of Wisconsin is on the verge of rolling back, at least partially, the licensing raj there.  (gated)