It isn’t difficult to find absurd examples of the onerous occupational licensing laws that stifle entrepreneurship and bleed would-be business owners dry in every state.

In Idaho, it’s harder to become a barber than a bounty hunter.

In Washington, D.C., shoe-shiners have to wade through four layers of bureaucracy and pay at least $337 in fees to get city permission to clean shoes for money.

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In Florida, it takes about six years and $400 to become a licensed interior decorator.

In Alabama, you’ll need more than four months of training and $135 to be allowed to give a manicure.

But this one might top them all. Eric Boehm at Reason reports:

If you want to help a deaf person communicate in Wisconsin, you’ll have to get permission from the state government first.

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states to require a license for sign language interpreters, and the state also issues licenses for interior designers, bartenders, and dieticians despite no clear evidence that any of those professions constitute a risk to public health in other states without similar licensing rules.

Sign language. You literally have to pay the state for permission to move your hands in a way that helps people communicate. How unlicensed signing could pose a risk to public health is impossible to imagine. The signer isn’t even touching anyone!

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Of course, Wisconsin is a serial offender where licensing is concerned. This is the state where it’s illegal to sell homemade baked goods thanks to a law made with the absurd logic that if commercial bakers are heavily regulated, it’s only fair that bakers with home kitchens be regulated right out of business.

The good news for rogue Wisconsinites who wish to bake and sign without state permission is Republicans in the state legislature have pledged to address ridiculous occupational licensing laws in their 2017 term. And with even the Obama administration backing licensing reform, they might even be able to get cross-partisan support.

Is this the most ridiculous occupational licensing law yet? AP Photo/Amel Emric
Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Rare, weekend editor at The Week, and a fellow at Defense Priorities. You can find more of her work at or follow her on Twitter @bonniekristian
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