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Don't Make It Harder For People to Be Their Best Selves

I learned in the last three years how hard it is to run a business. And I don't even have any skills!

My business is based on my expertise in marketing and audience development. That's my background, and when I decided to go out on my own, I thankfully had the support of a network of business owners and leaders who believed in my abilities (even when I have my moments of doubt and pain.)

Now, going on three years of being self-employed, I've been lucky to skate through tax and state registration requirements, and as I expand, which I'm intending to do in a big way, God willing, I know I'm going to need the help of a lawyer and an accountant to make sure I'm on the up-and-up with the mass of rules.

Thank goodness my business is not in the traditional products and services industry. Else, I'd be ... (a word I won't use that involves tools).

After nearly two years of operating her business in Florida, Ms. Del Castillo learned that she had run afoul of a law requiring any person offering dietary advice to possess a state-issued license. Qualifying for that permit requires a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, a 900-hour internship, a passing grade on an exam administered by the state Commission on Dietetic Registration, and a $355 fee. A licensed dietitian had tipped off the Health Department that Ms. Del Castillo was giving unauthorized advice. She retained the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, to fight the law that stripped her of her livelihood.

It's no secret to anyone who actually enjoys working all the hassles that businesses go through day after day. Even when you're not the business owner, if you are paying attention to HR or employee rules, you know some stuff pops up that makes you go "huh."

And here's why. The states all want a piece of the entrepreneur's livelihood.

About 1 in 4 Americans need licenses to perform their occupations. In some states, florists, taxidermists and even fortune-tellers need licenses to operate. Far too often, these licenses serve less as safeguards of public health and safety than as barriers to entry. In many cases, the state-appointed boards that issue licenses are stocked with industry insiders seeking to restrict competition.

As the authors of this article point out, "aggressive licensing regimes limit the ability of Americans to move from state to state."

But suggestions on making exemptions for military spouses because they move more, or even filing within 30 days as a new resident to qualify for bureaucratic and ugly "interstate compacts" overlooks the bigger problem. It's all just so unnecessary.

Here's the simple answer:

Lawmakers should also forgo implementing new licensing requirements for any profession that doesn’t involve a quantifiable risk to public health and safety, or for which less burdensome options such as inspections or bonding can be just as effective.