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Armed with new task force and website, FTC chair vows libertarian approach to occupational licensing

Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission, announced March 16 the creation of the Economic Liberty Task Force, which will identify "problematic licensing laws" and encourage state officials to review onerous licensing requirements.

Although the task force is mostly meant as an advisory resource for state officials, it will have the ability to take legal action against licensing boards engaged in anti-competitive behavior.

“I believe that economic liberty is central to opening doors of opportunity and increasing competition, entrepreneurship, and innovation that benefits all consumers,” said Ohlhausen, who promised that the FTC will be partnering with governors, state attorney generals, state legislators and members of Congress. “We will be working to help them advance economic liberty initiatives that remove barriers to entry and competition,” she said.

Ohlhausen is “particularly concerned that occupational licensing disproportionally affects those seeking to move up the lower and middle rungs of the economic ladder, as well as military families and veterans,” she stated in a February speech.

“Occupational licensing regulations can prevent individuals from using their vocational skills and entering new professions, as well as starting small businesses or creating new business models.”

The FTC’s new “Economic Liberty” website features graphic displays of licensing requirements that the agency views as disproportionate.

A new website is part of the task force’s agenda. “The FTC’s Economic Liberty Task Force has moved quickly to create a website that will gather many existing resources, from the FTC and elsewhere, into a central repository for stakeholders. It will be a dynamic resource and will grow to incorporate additional work by the task force and others in this important area,” Ohlhausen said. The website also presents selected examples of state initiatives by governors who have adopted the agency’s goal of occupational licensing reform.