The Balance Between Public Protection and the Right to Earn a Living

One of the significant challenges facing licensing professionals is striking the most effective, efficient and just balance between regulation of occupations and preserving occupational practice free from unnecessary government restrictions. As discussed in greater detail below, there are at least two reasons—legal and economic—why finding such a balance is important. The first—legal—grows out of the right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution to earn a living free from unnecessary government intrusion. The second reflects the economic and labor market effects of reduced competition in the respective industry, opportunities for prospective workers, and choices available to consumers—all of which are generally seen as negative effects, or costs of regulation—and their relationship to protection of public health and safety.

A recent movement in the community of regulators—right touch regulation—also calls for finding such a balance, in some ways built on some of the same motivations listed above. Much of the literature and recommendations relevant to right touch regulation originates from and is contextualized in the U.K. Therefore, we end this resource brief with a recommendation using language more familiar to U.S. readers on how regulators and elected officials can think about striking an effective balance.

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