Right now, nearly every American is feeling the effects of out-of-control inflation and other economic problems. My guess is that most of us are trying to cope by reevaluating our budgets and cutting things that are unnecessary.

But once you’ve cut what you can and the numbers still don’t add up, you only have one option: find creative ways to make more money. This could mean working more hours, starting a side-hustle, or the like. But to pay the bills, many of us are having to figure out what opportunities are out there and what we can do to go after them.

Given that many of us are having to look for ways to work more, now is the perfect time to ask: What can we do to get government out of the way?

How about this for starters: Let’s go after occupational-licensing laws that don’t make any sense.

According to a 2018 report from the Alabama Policy Institute (API), approximately 21% of Alabama’s workforce is subject to occupational licensing requirements. Twenty-one percent may not sound like a lot, but that comes out to approximately 432,000 workers. The initial costs of such licensing, excluding the educational costs, come out to $122 million. Annual renewal costs come out to $45 million (which often results in price increases, which is bad when inflation is already terrible).

But that’s nothing compared to licensing’s educational costs. The total initial education costs are estimated to be $65 billion, with $243 million in continuing education costs per year.

That’s an awful lot of money. Imagine what people could do if they were allowed to keep it for themselves and put it to work.

So given the current crisis and the billions of dollars lost every year to educational requirements, just so that someone can have a shot at working, one would think that the government has a compelling justification for requiring billions to be flushed down the drain every year. Right?

Well, not really.

In theory, the government requires licensing to protect the public from incompetent workers. But let’s consider other things that can get the job done.

First, in the 21st Century, the internet makes it easier than ever to give public feedback about a person or company’s services. The average person can leave a review on Google, which nowadays makes the first impression to the public about someone’s services. They can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Finally, local media is often an effective way to draw attention to bad business practices.

While I’m not saying that licensing is never justified, I am saying that there are other ways to protect the public than forcing everyone to pay billions of dollars in fees every year just for the right to work so they can feed themselves.

Granted, there are some occupations - rocket scientists, lawyers, and doctors come to mind - who should probably show their credentials before going into full-time employment in those fields. But let’s take a look at some of the other fields that Alabama requires licensing from:

1. Barbers and cosmetologists. Really? Growing up, my mom cut hair on the side, and she was properly licensed. But what is so dangerous about cutting hair that the government has to vet everyone before they do it? It’s a great way to make some money on the side if you’re good at it. Licensing makes no sense here.

2. Coffin Manufacturers. You know, because if a coffin isn’t made properly, it might hurt (or even kill) the person who rests in it.

3. Counselors. I can understand licensing psychiatrists because they prescribe drugs. But if you find out that you’re good at giving advice and helping people, then who is the government to stand in the way?

I could go on, but you get the point.

Since the Legislature is in session, I recommend contacting your representatives and urging them to take a look at how they can eliminate needless licensing laws.

But if the Legislature won’t do its job, then there may be some legal options. If your job is to speak, then the Free Speech Clauses of the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions may protect your rights to do so without needing to get the government’s permission.

And if the licensing scheme for your profession really does nothing except protect people in business from new competition, then three federal circuit courts have held that such schemes are unconstitutional.

So if you’re feeling the pain of occupational licensing, now is the time to send Alabama the message: unless you have a compelling reason to vet me first, get out of my way and let me work.

Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.