Economic liberty—the right to earn a living in the occupation of your choice without unnecessary government interference—is at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs find that this dream is under constant attack by unreasonable licensing, permitting and other requirements that stand in the way of honest competition. The mission of IJ’s economic liberty practice is to remove these barriers by persuading state and federal judges to take entrepreneurs’ constitutional rights seriously.
- Since 2016, we won a landmark court victory in the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of taxi and ride-hailing drivers, freed Texas craft brewers, home bakers, casket sellers, makeup school teachers and hair braiders from onerous restrictions. We also filed six new lawsuits and launched our new “IJ Asks Why” campaign to vindicate the right to earn an honest living.
- We published the second edition of License to Work, a 50-state study of occupational licensing laws, in 2017. Our litigation, research and activism have made onerous licensing restrictions a national issue.
- IJ has filed more than 100 economic liberty cases since we opened our doors in 1991. We have won the vast majority of these cases, through either courtroom victories or legislative changes sparked by our lawsuits.
- IJ has won economic liberty cases at every judicial level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, state supreme courts, and state and federal trial courts across the country.
In 2013, the Los Angeles Times pointed to “a growing trend of successful ‘economic liberty’ cases championed by the Institute for Justice.” These victories have vindicated the rights of thousands of different entrepreneurs in careers as varied as hair braiding, taxi driving and wine making. Regardless of the occupation, the rule of law IJ seeks is the same.
Through strategic litigation, research and public advocacy, IJ demonstrates not only that economic liberty is morally and practically important but that the right to economic liberty has a genuine basis in the text, history and original public meaning of the U.S. Constitution and should be rigorously enforced in our nation’s courts.
In addition to IJ’s litigation efforts, our attorneys and strategic research team continue to publish a wide variety of reports on issues relating to economic liberty. These reports have measured the scope and scale of occupational licensing barriers to entrepreneurship, examined the justifications for local and state restrictions on entrepreneurship, and even documented how private interests manage to strategically use the power of government to squelch competition. Academics and journalists across the country have cited these studies, helping to drive the public debate on the importance of economic liberty.
Through strategic litigation, research and public advocacy, IJ demonstrates not only that economic liberty is morally and practically important but that the right to economic liberty has a genuine basis in the text, history and original public meaning of the U.S. Constitution and should be rigorously enforced in our nation’s courts. The precedents we set through our work and the victories we achieve have already paved and will continue to pave the way for thousands of hard-working men and women to enter the workforce and provide for themselves and their families through honest enterprise.
Economic Liberty Cases
Small business owners sue to strike down Jacksonville regulations effectively banning food trucks from city
Jacksonville, North Carolina effectively bans food trucks from operating in 96 percent of the city. That's why a group of small business owners has teamed up with the Institute for Justice to file a lawsuit challenging Jacksonville's regulations.
Latest Economic Liberty News
Economic Liberty Research
License to Work 3
This third edition of IJ’s landmark License to Work report finds that for lower-income Americans, licensing continues to be widespread, burdensome and—frequently—irrational. It also provides a blueprint for meaningful licensing reform.
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
Raising Barriers, Not Quality
This study tests claims that occupational licenses make consumers better off by screening out workers likely to provide inferior service. Comparing Yelp ratings for service providers in neighboring states with different licensing regimes, this study…