Help the Working Poor Adam Smith’s Way

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

This year’s May Day activities in Portland centered on promoting “workers’ rights” and “resistance to capitalism.” Unfortunately, too few critics of capitalism seem to realize that many of the workers they seek to help are being kept from using their knowledge and talents by a system of occupational licensure that dates back centuries.

May Day activists may not know that eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher and political economist Adam Smith, Capitalism’s Founding Father, was not simply interested in how markets profit those they now call “the one percent.” In fact, Smith strongly condemned restrictions on the working poor that kept them from benefiting from free exchange and the division of labor enabled by markets.

What in Smith’s day was called “incorporated trade” is today known as occupational licensure. Smith noted that apprenticeship requirements for weavers, hatters, tailors, etc., kept many out of these trades, while raising the wages of those already secure in them.

Today, most states impose fees and training requirements that keep many workers from entering dozens of occupations such as cosmetology, athletic training, and dry wall installation. Oregon, in fact, imposes some of the heaviest occupational licensing burdens on the working poor.

So, rather than simply berating capitalism, it would be nice if May Day activists could study a little economic history and then help reduce some of the licensing restrictions that limit workers’ rights today.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

  • Jack Lord God

    The latest front in the licensing wars seems to be Uber. A ride share service that offered the perfect solution for many under employed people and therefore must be challenged. It’s sad as hell but a perfect illustration of how large government fans tend to perpetrate a highly stratified society.

    In light of some other BS debates going around, it provides a good contrast.

    Personal choices that do not further societal stratification by class are given free reign. Note how concerns about perpetrators feigning transgender status to perpetrate perversions in public bathrooms is taken as a silly concern. Saying “I feel like a woman”, and hanging out in the women’s room is surely something no pervert would stoop to, and we shouldn’t be concerned.

    However a pervert going to the extent of applying to Uber, registering his drivers license and car with them and waiting a few days for approval to perpetrate a perversion, now that makes perfect sense, and thus we really need to think about banning Uber.

    The difference is obvious. Uber allows freedom of the individual to escape an onerous barrier to entry government instituted to pay off well heeled friends.

    Which bathroom people use represents zero threat to pay offs from friends, thus government has no interest in it. Either way stratification by class is maintained. Thus worry about perverts in the bathroom is dismissed, but a pervert in a Geo Metro is a fear to be instilled in every woman out there.

    • Connie Kosuda

      perverts on your mind, eh, Jack?

      • Plumb your whine, Babe

        What sex ploys are on the shelves at your progressive pleasure store?“`Nasalry Rodham Clinton is always on the lookout for hubby’s Fathers-day presents for her swain in vain…hooter be always ready set go in any event, attuning with letting go with a crock’s crow!

        • Connie Kosuda

          you are a ‘guest’ ???? of what?

        • DavidAppell

          Perhaps Hillary should shop at Rupert and his daddy’s place:

          • Kaka urine Brownie ploys

            Rubber your dub, Bub!

      • Jack Lord God

        Perverts make the world go round. We all know that. However the point here is how those who want a stratified society tend to use perverts as a fear when it suits their use, and castigates the technique when it doesn’t.

        I assume your remark indicates neither position, but comes from a general sense of prudishness. That’s fine too!

        • Connie Kosuda

          jack / you’re making it up as you go along.

          wrong on all counts.

          • Peron her off to Argentina

            CK, seal ya on the bong show, disbarring wisdom.

          • Connie Kosuda

            time to engage in some good spiritual guidance taking, while you still can.

          • Connie Kosuda

            btw, who let’s the gentlemenly (NOT) folks post here?

            looking for a new low?

      • DavidAppell

        Of course perverts are on Rupert’s mind — he and his daddy cater to them:

  • Bob Clark

    Yes, it would be nice if folks weren’t such busy bodies trying to tell other folks what they can and can’t try buying or selling (even when these products and services have no significant or measurable external implications). We are living in the time of busy bodies, some of whom try using physical violence to force their will onto others.

    • Connie Kosuda

      like the trumpster. , dude.

      • thevillageidiot

        so why is you hair dresser required to be licensed to make you look beautiful. Or why should a barber be licensed? The only reason is to prevent anybody with scissors from going into business cutting hair. and the list goes on. The head of the board of cosmetology here in the business unfriendly state of Oregon has some esoteric masters of hair design from some unknown school. probably spent tens of thousands of dollars on the education and probably cannot not charge $100 a head, so she Is in charge of licensing to prevent entry into the business.

      • Popeye, Bluto and Wimpy

        You’re crude, Olive Oylinski: Hardly worth ‘canning’ altho’ the trumpster might

    • DavidAppell

      And we all know that Bob Clark would be the first one to whine — endlessly, no doubt blaming liberals — when an incompetent electrician he hired burned down his house.

  • thevillageidiot

    and we wonder why the PERS is so underfunded. there are a lot of “boards” preventing free market entry into low cost businesses with minions going around ‘inspecting’ for violators. There can’t be enough revenue to justify such waste. Now a useful board would be to license journalists.

    • DavidAppell

      This has nothing to do with PERS. The PERS situation was a contract freely entered by the state of Oregon, in your name, a contract which has been upheld by the highest court in the land.

      You owe. I owe. Pay up.

      • Cull your Poop, DA

        Fork you on your Demwit tableau ewe golden feces asseting Oregon taxpayers out to nigh, to wit micheal moore flatuentures airing Oregon to dearth…..

  • HBguy

    There is certainly a balance between the burden of obtaining a state license, and the damage that unlicensed incompetent providers can wreck on society.
    For instance. Knowing that the electrician you hired is well trained enough to not burn down your house, or if she does err, that she will have insurance to cover the damage.
    Yes, you could make it a buyer beware market, then you’d see a TON of lawsuits for shoddy work (a lawyers feast), more damaged property and possible injury to consumers, and actual damage to our economy.
    That isn’t good for our economy, our safety or our health.
    Oversight and regulation to limit the worst excesses of human nature is a legitimate exercise of government In my opinion. Though needless regulation should be eliminated and the benefits of regulation should always be questioned and tested.

    • DavidAppell

      Well said.

  • mykefs

    This is nothing that hasn’t been known. Even further would be the State’s movement towards a heavy fee based taxing system. That’ll get those poor freeloaders.