Several years ago I attended a conference in New Orleans sponsored by the Koch Brothers that promoted a voluntary hiring approach that they called “Ban the Box!” What is the purpose of that? In today’s world most job applications have a box that must be checked if the applicant has been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. Thus, as a practical matter for most companies, if that box is checked the applicant automatically becomes disqualified, which is as short-sighted as it is unfair. But the issue can be raised later during the application process, once the potential employer knows more about the applicants. So I left the conference understanding two realities that I had not thought of before. The first was, as they suggested several times, most people cannot be defined by the worst thing they have ever done – particularly when they were much younger when they did it. And the second is that many people who have been released after serving their time in prison genuinely want to live as productive citizens, so they often turn out to be fine, dedicated and appreciative employees. In my view they should be given that chance!

To take these points further, many government occupational licensing requirements are simply not necessary. Ask yourself, if workers are insured or bonded why should they also be required to have a government license to do such work as being a barber, or braiding hair or trimming trees? In addition, often job applicants are required to take many hours of expensive classes to qualify for an occupational license, where many of these classes do not even address the skills they will need for their particular job. The answer is to let the customers decide if they are getting their money’s worth! If they are, the workers will succeed, and if they are not it doesn’t matter what occupational licenses the workers may have! And one final observation: many times the people who are already working in a particular occupation lobby for governments to require licenses. And why do they do that? For the express purpose of reducing competition for those positions, which artificially keeps their own pay higher. Not a good thing for government to be involved in! Do you agree?

Conversation for the day: Yesterday I visited a monastery and, as I walked past the kitchen, saw a man frying chips. I asked him: “Are you the friar?” He replied: “No, I am the chip monk.”

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

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