Occupational Licensing Under Fire From Everybody

Hair braiding is no longer a crime in IowaThe Wall Street Journal has come out against the creep of occupational licensing, identifying it as a major cause of economic stagnation. The following is quoted from the July, 26th 2016 Wall Street Journal:

Braids of Liberty: A victory in what should be a nationwide war on occupational licensing

One reason for the slow pace of U.S. job creation is the spreading web of licensing laws that impede the self-employed and small business. So two cheers for Iowa, where state lawmakers have liberated hair-braiders from a requirement to get a state cosmetology license.

As with most such rules, hair braiding laws around the country result from lobbying by beauty-ship owners who want to hobble competitors and state licensing boards that want to retain power.  Incredibly, the Iowa law forced women who merely want to help other women braid their hair to spend as much as $22,000 and 2,100 hours in training. Some cosmetology schools don’t even teach hair-braiding, which is a skill often handed down from African-American mothers to daughters.

Aicheria Bell is a single mom who lives in Des Moines and uses her braiding practice to support her family. Achan Agit fled the Sudan civil war in 2001 and settled in Iowa. Last October the two sued the state Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences—yes, there really is such an outfit—with the help of the Virginia-based Institute for Justice. The suit caught the attention of Iowa politicians. The two are now free to braid.

Widespread Concern About Occupational Licensing

The Wall Street Journal is far from alone. The White House, too, has expressed concern that unnecessary licensing denies good-paying jobs to those who cannot afford to meet capricious educational and training requirements. See last month’s White House Fact Sheet: New Steps to Reduce Unnecessary Occupation Licenses that are Limiting Worker Mobility and Reducing Wages.

The realization that licensing laws have run amok, and that licensing boards are only capable of looking out for the interests of licensees, not the public, is gaining ever-increasing acceptance at all levels of government and across the political spectrum.


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