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California Wildfires Demonstrate Need for Occupational Licensing Reform (Guest: Matthew Mitchell, Mercatus Center)

August 16, 2018

California inmates fighting wildfires in the state will be unable to obtain gainful employment as firefighters due to the state's occupational licensing regulations.

Matthew Mitchell, senior research fellow and director of the project for the study of American capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, talks about how California's occupational licensing regulations are burning incarcerated individuals currently serving the public by fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire.

There are more than 2,000 prisoners currently fighting wildfires in California, according to the California Department of Corrections. Inmates earn up to $3 a day for their "volunteer" work, but upon release, the state government's occupational licensing rules will make it almost impossible for them to get a firefighting job, according to Mitchell.

Proponents of occupational licensing often say that it is necessary to protect consumers from bad service, but more often than not, such "government permission slips" mainly protect established businesses from competition. Mitchell says individuals who are systematically denied the right to compete by occupational licensing regulations include military spouses, immigrants, ethnic minorities, and those with prior convictions.

Jesse Hathaway is a policy advisor for budget and tax issues at The Heartland Institute. @JesseinOH