Occupational licensure is getting in the way of New York’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, observes Walter Olson, noting this news account:
A Long Island Power Authority official told a crowd of 300 Rockaway residents that they would need to hire a licensed city electrician to inspect their homes before LIPA could restore power, and suggested the homeowners print out inspection forms — from the Internet.
“But we don’t have power!” the crowd shouted back at LIPA’s vice president of operations, Nicholas Lizanich. …
“On a scale of zero to 100, I give [LIPA] a zero,” grumbled homeowner Jim Silvestri, who asked whether he could use a Nassau County-certified electrician and was told no.
“There’s not enough licensed electricians in the City of New York to take care of this,” he added. [New York Post, November 12]
It’s at a time of disaster that the irrationality of so many market-blocking rules, licensure among them, becomes most obvious. In a splendid report issued by the Institute for Justice in May, License To Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing, by Dick M. Carpenter II, Lisa Knepper, Angela Erickson (formerly of Cato) and John K. Ross examine what should be the most dispensable tranche of occupational licensure laws, those for occupations like bartender, shampooer and animal trainer, typically lower-income and often somewhat entrepreneurial that are licensed in some but not all of the fifty states. Usually, the result is a controlled real-world demonstration that without the legal restriction of a given trade, life just goes on normally.
Of the 102 low-income occupations they examine, one with an obvious nexus to disaster recovery is tree trimmer, an occupation licensed in just 7 states. […] Three states that suffered extensive tree downage from Sandy — Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island — forbid unlicensed tree trimming, although many a property owner would probably have appreciated the legal right to hire someone from a neighboring state to clear a blocked driveway. [Cato-at-Liberty, November 12]