Free Societies

2022 Templeton Freedom Award Finalist Spotlight: Goldwater Institute


In the United States, occupational licensing requirements impede or completely prevent many citizens from working in their desired professions. Even when they do satisfy onerous, expensive procedures, these aspiring professionals are often forced to repeat the process if they relocate to a different state. Goldwater Institute’s Breaking Down Barriers to Work initiative pushes for state-based licensing reforms across the country. Arguing that workers don’t lose skills when they cross borders, Goldwater Institute encouraged the adoption of a universal recognition plan honoring out-of-state licenses.

Since Arizona passed the reform in 2019, 21 states have expanded license recognition based on Goldwater Institute’s recommendations and more states are expected to implement streamlined rules by the end of 2023.

“It is an incredible honor to be nominated for the Templeton Freedom Award … and we are grateful to be considered alongside our colleagues in liberty,” said Heather Curry, director of strategic engagement at the Goldwater Institute. “The Goldwater Institute has worked for decades to ensure that America’s most cherished freedoms are not slowly chipped away by unelected bureaucrats and overzealous regulators. Winning this award would not only honor our efforts but those of the numerous policy groups and state legislators who have helped amplify and advance essential Goldwater reforms like universal recognition.”

One in four jobs in America requires a license, in fields ranging from dentistry to engineering to cosmetology, but despite the growing trend of licensing, consistency across states is rare. As a result, individuals who relocate—be it through necessity or choice—are often required to put their careers on hold while completing new licensing requirements. And this process is often costly in both time and money.

Since 2019, when Arizona became the first state to enact Goldwater’s universal recognition reform, over 4,800 professionals have applied for and been granted a license to work in the fields that they are qualified for. In the same timeframe, no professional who has received a universal license in Arizona has been brought before a board with a complaint and there has been no evidence of harm, further confirming the value of the initiative.

Goldwater Institute has also played a crucial role in expanding the scope of the initiative as it is being adopted by other states. Goldwater experts advise on bill language, provide data-driven analysis and testimony, and respond to legislative requests in real time, altogether making the reform a more efficient process that has garnered bipartisan support across the country. The Breaking Down Barriers to Work initiative and related legislation have also gained significant media attention at local and national levels, further spreading awareness about the potential of universal licensing.

The positive replicability of the initiative across different states also casts exciting possibilities for the potential of universal occupational licensing in the U.S. to provide a template for establishing government license reciprocity between nations. Not only would this policy follow the trend of growing mobility of people across borders but it would be particularly beneficial in fields that are highly mobile and in high demand, such as medical professionals and high-technology industries.

At its core, Goldwater’s Breaking Down Barriers to Work seeks to empower Americans to pursue careers that they can flourish in, free from worry that moving across state lines could inhibit their ability to make a living. The positive impact of this program can be seen in the thousands of families that have already taken advantage of universal occupational licensing to seek new opportunities throughout the U.S., and that number will only continue to grow.

About Goldwater Institute:
The Goldwater Institute is a United State think-tank committed to empowering all Americans to live freer, happier lives. They accomplish tangible results for liberty by working in state courts, legislatures, and communities nationwide to advance, defend, and strengthen the freedom guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the fifty states.

About the Templeton Freedom Award:
Named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the Templeton Freedom Award has annually honored his legacy. Since 2004, the Award has identified and recognized the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The Templeton Freedom Award is generously supported by the Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network's Freedom Dinner on November 17 in New York City. The winning organization will receive a US$100,000 prize, and all other finalists will receive US$20,000 prizes. Find out more about the award HERE.

See the related articles below to learn more about the other 2022 Templeton Freedom Award finalists.