I love the game of Monopoly. The hope that I will land on expensive properties first, the poker-esque bluffing, and the art of deal-making with unsuspecting friends makes for a great game night.

Even though I love Monopoly, I don’t always enjoy it. When I’ve missed out on important properties and am mortgaging the few I have left to pay the winner, I’m not having any fun. When it’s obvious I will not win and I slowly move from competitor to benefactor, I’m not thankful and neither are others facing a similar end.

I think this distaste says something obvious: Monopoly is great for the winner. Crowding out competition and increasing prices because you have the power to do so is good sport for the already-powerful, yet detrimental to the mobility of others.

Monopoly is predicated on our tendency towards self-preservation and self-centeredness. This tendency, utilized for recreation in Monopoly, is manifested in Alabama through our occupational licensing laws (also known as permission-slip-to-work laws).

Take locksmiths, for example. Established in the late 1990s, the Alabama Electronic Security Board of Licensure regulates both security alarm installers and locksmiths.

Not a big deal, right?

Wrong. Wrong because Alabama is, as shown in a recent report, one of only 15 states that licenses locksmiths. Wrong because being in such a minority mandates we ask, “Why do we license locksmiths in the first place?”

Robert Burns describes his experience as a locksmith in a video recently published by the Alabama Policy Institute. In it, he suggests that the licensing of locksmiths was established in Alabama to protect the power of practitioners – not the safety of the public – and that it makes becoming a locksmith more difficult than necessary.

Before any Alabamian can work as a locksmith they must pay fees, pass tests, and wait to be approved by the government.

In most of the country, these hurdles are nonexistent and residents hoping to work as a locksmith can do so when the private sector (through employers and training), not the government, deems appropriate.

In Alabama, however, tendencies that should be reserved to a board game – tendencies to concentrate power towards ourselves and restrict competition – have been allowed into our occupational licensing structure. We must make every effort, therefore, to identify where licensing exists only to disincentivize entrance into a profession and to eliminate regulations where necessary.

This op-ed was originally published on Yellowhammer News, Alabama Today, and the Birmingham Business Journal.


MORE ON API Blog

What you need to know about Proposed Constitutional Amendments Three and Four

On November 6, Alabamians will vote on four proposed statewide constitutional amendments. Although the first two amendments will likely receive the most attention (API’s analyses can be found on our website), amendments three and four deserve notice as well. They are, in fact, changes to the longest known constitution in the world. We’ll start with […]

Alabama must vote yes on Proposed Statewide Amendment Two

According to Pew Research, the only state that is more pro-life than Alabama is Mississippi. Our status as one of the leading states in the pro-life movement is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that our state has successfully passed legislation curbing abortion. It is a curse, however, in the sense […]

Understanding Constitutional Amendment One: The Ten Commandments and Religious Freedom

For years, discussion over the public display of the Ten Commandments has animated Alabama’s political landscape. The issue is so energizing, it seems, that many politicians frame their own races through the lens of this battle––that support for their candidacy is a vote for the Ten Commandments. Even so, Alabamians have never actually gotten a […]

MORE ON Economic Freedom

Three Reasons Why You Should Care About Occupational Licensing Reform

During my years working in public policy, there have been a handful of issues that have gotten me fired up. Typically when I tell people about them, they have some level of understanding—a state lottery, education and school choice, taxes and budgets, things like that. These days, when I’m asked about the issue I most […]

When the government tells us no

Sometimes the government tells us no. I’m not allowed to sit in the Oval Office and watch President Trump mull over Fox and Friends, ready to Tweet at a moment’s notice. I (begrudgingly) accept that. I also can’t read classified intelligence briefings or call a special session of the Alabama legislature. I could ask, but […]

Alabama’s unrestrained “permission slip to work” laws affect real Alabamians

Across the country, lawmakers are realizing the costs associated with the rampant overuse of occupational licensing laws. Alabama Policy Institute’s recent report shows that over 21% of Alabama workers are licensed. This means that more than one in five Alabamians need a government permission slip to work. Although the original impetus behind states’ licensing practices […]

MORE FROM Parker Snider

What you need to know about Proposed Constitutional Amendments Three and Four

On November 6, Alabamians will vote on four proposed statewide constitutional amendments. Although the first two amendments will likely receive the most attention (API’s analyses can be found on our website), amendments three and four deserve notice as well. They are, in fact, changes to the longest known constitution in the world. We’ll start with […]

Understanding Constitutional Amendment One: The Ten Commandments and Religious Freedom

For years, discussion over the public display of the Ten Commandments has animated Alabama’s political landscape. The issue is so energizing, it seems, that many politicians frame their own races through the lens of this battle––that support for their candidacy is a vote for the Ten Commandments. Even so, Alabamians have never actually gotten a […]

Prepare to vote on constitutional amendments, Alabama

The drought, as they say, is over. Football season is back in Alabama. To no one’s surprise, the Alabama Crimson Tide was ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches preseason polls. Almost simultaneously as the return of college football, however, is the beginning of another all-too-familiar season for Alabamians. That season, of course, is election […]