Having a hard time making a living in a field with no barrier to entry, due to too much competition? A simple solution: add mandatory licensing requirements to this profession!


In ages past, certain vocations had a high technical barrier to entry. For example, to be published writer, a person  would have needed a publishing deal (or to buy their own printing press). Similarly, when computers were extremely expensive, a person would need a $5000 computer and a $500 compiler just to write a simple program (which would then need to be distributed on floppy disks).

The Issue:

Nowadays, there’s almost no barrier to entry for these pursuits: a writer can self-publish a story onto the Internet in a single day, and modern programming tools make it easy for programmers to distribute software for free.

The downside of this is that it is no longer possible to make a living by selling an $85 spell-checker by mail, and no one is going to buy an average-quality novella when there are literally thousands of such stories (out-of-copyright classics and the works of modern amateurs) available for free online.


There is a simple solution to allow people in “creative” professions to make a living again: require that these individuals be licensed. This could be an expensive and time-consuming process (e.g. “writers must have a four-year college degree in literature to post text online” or “programmers must pay $10,000 a year to be certified“). This could dramatically restrict the number of people in these professions, thus increasing wages (assuming that supply & demand applies here).

Fig. 1: A government board could certify programmers and writers on an annual basis.

As an added bonus, this system could ensure that the products being produced were of the highest quality. For example, a government board could mandate that programmers only use a time-tested programming language, like COBOL, Ada, or FORTRAN.

For writers, we could allow any type of writing, but mandate that the text be translated into English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Tagalog, and Estonian before it was allowed to be published. (This would also help ensure that the work has worldwide appeal.)

Other endeavors that could be licensed include the visual arts (e.g. painting, photography), music, hobbyist carpentry, sports (e.g. a “tennis license” or “basketball license”), juggling, riding the unicycle, and more.


Many professions are already licensed in some jurisdictions (e.g. auctioneers, doctors, teachers, interior designers, makeup artists, lawyers, and travel agents), so there’s already a straightforward framework that could be used to bring this process to the “creative” professions as well.

PROS: May result in higher-quality output from licensed professionals. The licensing fees will provide additional revenue local governments, and the licensing process will create many jobs in the “license exam prep” field.

CONS: Some people might be opposed to taking a 7 month course before they are allowed to ride a bicycle, but the safety benefits should be obvious.