Executive View: Climbing that First Job Rung

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Williams also favors adopting the European-style apprentice system, in which young people work at relatively low wages for several years as assistants to skilled plumbers, carpenters or other craftsmen, learning their trade. Another way to help minorities onto that crucial first rung of the career ladder would be to ease or eliminate state licensing laws that keep many occupations tight and closed. Williams is appalled that "roughly 600 occupations are licensed in the U.S. In some states you need a license to be a cosmetologist or a landscaper. To become a commercial photographer in Texas, you need a negative Wassermann test." Says Williams: "Our founding fathers thought that a man had a right to practice his trade without going to the feudal lord or the king to ask permission. But we have built the same system that our founding fathers sought to escape."

In sum, Government has passed many laws designed to help the lowest-skilled worker but has actually hurt him. Says Williams: "The whole process was aptly described in the play Green Pastures. God remarks to the angels, 'That's always the trouble with miracles. When you pass one, you always gotta r'ar back and pass another.'" What is required is less miracle-making legislation. Or, as Williams puts it, "Black people do not need any special programs. All they need is for Government to get off their backs."

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