States Scramble To Recognize Out-Of-State Job Licenses In Virus Lockdown USA

P. Gardner Goldsmith | May 21, 2020
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The saying goes that there is always a silver lining to a dark cloud, and, despite the fact that many of the economic hardships Americans suffer in “COVID USA” find their roots not in any measurable danger of the Wuhan Coronavirus, but stem from data-challenged, fear-mongering, and political shutdowns of products and services, there are potentially positive political changes emerging.

One of the most important changes was foreshadowed by the government of Arizona, which, late last year, became the first state in the US to initiate “universal recognition” of professional licenses. In other words, the state will recognize out-of-state work licenses.

Of course, the term “work license” should set off alarm bells for every person aware of individual rights and the history of totalitarian states. But, sadly, many Americans grew up with the term, and rarely question its anti-liberty, anti-economic implications.

Catalyst Policy Fellow Conor Norris explains the lead taken by Arizona’s government.

Last year, Arizona became the first state to recognize other states’ occupational licenses for people moving in. ‘Universal recognition’ legislation allows any professional who has met the requirements and maintained licensure for a year in any other US state to transfer that license to Arizona and begin working.

And Norris correctly points out how this increase in liberty has led to increases in economic opportunity, trade, and competition to help poorer people.

In less than a year, over 750 people have been able to move to Arizona and begin working immediately. This helps not only those moving to Arizona but the Arizonans who are now able to receive services from these professionals.

Montana, Utah, and Pennsylvania quickly followed suit to pass similar legislation, and now, with the strain on the supply chain and a hyper-worry-related political desire to get more medical workers, Norris explains that fourteen states have been forced to see how licensing restricts supply.

Due to shortages of healthcare workers, localities with early outbreaks feared being overwhelmed. Healthcare professionals in states with far fewer cases were ready and willing to move, but they were blocked by state licensing requirements. Fourteen states quickly responded by temporarily granting healthcare workers temporary reciprocity, to encourage them to move to the state and begin practicing without delay.

It’s turned out that many of the fear-inspired thoughts about needing more health workers were unfounded, but the takeaway – lighter licensing mandates -- is one of the few positives one can take out of the convoluted moves made by many state politicians in COVID America.  As previously noted at MRCTV, licensing is a form of economic fascism – the nominal (in name only) ownership of private business under the overall command and control of the state. Economists also observe the universal fact that licensing is not just a way to control businesses and for the state to shakedown citizens who simply want to engage in voluntary commerce, it’s a way to allow big, favored businesses to block competition, what’s called “rent-seeking”, to profit at the expense of consumers by “gaming” the system and restricting competition.

Licenses restrict the entrance of new professionals, artificially raise wages, the prices consumers pay, slow down innovation and entrepreneurship, and erect barriers to low-skilled workers trying to enter the labor market. All that, with no measurable effect on quality, according to a 2015 White House report. Similar findings have come from researchers at ideologically diverse places like the National Bureau of Economic Research, the University of Minnesota, the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, and the Council of Economic Advisors.

Which is interesting, because so many politicians who favor “licensing” (i.e. mandating that you pay them and get their permission to do what you have a right to be able to do in the first place) are the same rhetoricians who launch fountains of crocodile tears about helping “the poor” with things like “minimum wage” orders and tax redistribution.

Now, perhaps people will remember these examples of the desperate moves to lift licensing in order to bring in more health care workers in COVID USA. And perhaps they will apply this to two other areas.

First, not only is it economically backwards and authoritarian to impose license mandates, most state constitutions do not explicitly grant such power to their governments, and the Contract Clause (Article I, Section X, Clause I) of the US Constitution forbids state governments from interfering with the fulfillment of already existing private contracts.

And even if one accepts the mistaken idea that it is good or constitutional for states to grant licenses, the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the US Constitution (Article IV, Section I) mandates that any legal document from one state will be recognized by all states with “full faith and credit”. That means that if a plumber is forced to be “licensed” in Massachusetts, that license must be accepted in New York, and every other state.

Simply put, the US Constitution would make these state moves redundant – if people who swear oaths to the Constitution abided by it. In some ways, we can see echoes of the principle when people attempt drive in other states, or to rent cars while traveling out of state. Their original “driver’s licenses” are recognized in every state – per the design of the "Full Faith and Credit Clause" for legal documents..

And one of the most important facets of that principle is that the already unconstitutional, anti-Second Amendment, anti-rights state “gun licensing” laws should also be viewed the same way. If one state grants a person a “license” to own a gun, or openly carry a gun, or carry a concealed firearm, all states must recognize that license.

The states shouldn’t be mandating such licenses in the first place, and all politicians who push those licenses are breaking their oaths, but, at any time, people can bring this up to their state politicians, and ask them why an out-of-state firearms license isn’t being recognized in their state.

Undoubtedly, the politician will be unwilling to answer, or incapable of answering.

But COVID USA exposes these important facts.

And we can remember them.