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Cronyists Fight to Defend Cosmetology Licensing

Cronyists Fight to Defend Cosmetology Licensing

3 Mins
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March 19, 2013

Do you want the freedom to practice your profession without permission? Some cosmetologists in Indiana and Missouri don’t—and they’re fighting to avoid that dreadful fate of freedom .

Of course, these are the licensed cosmetologists and cosmetology trainers who are resisting freedom. They already have permission to practice. What they’re trying to do is keep other people from competing with them without first jumping through regulatory hoops (and paying the licensed cosmetology trainers). They do not want other people to be free, because they want to limit their customers’ options—so that they will not have to prove the value of their services to customers who are free to seek unapproved alternatives.

Cosmetology is a fancy way of saying “doing hair, makeup, and nails” —things some people do for themselves. Of course, the most skilled people in these fields can do a lot for a person’s appearance. But to tell who these top talents are, customers need customer reviews or firsthand experience; state licensing doesn’t help.

So why license cosmetologists? The main argument, it seems, is that cosmetologists handle dangerous chemicals and need training in not hurting people with them. As Indiana state Rep. Ed Clere , a Republican, says: “There’s a need for cosmetologists to follow safe, sanitary practices to avoid contamination and disease transmission and also to work safely with chemicals. I think there’s more to it than it may appear at first blush.” His phrasing is oddly appropriate: “Blush” is just what he ought to do.

Part of running your own life as a free person is judging risks for yourself. And businesses and nonprofits often offer useful information to help you do so. Given the freedom to choose, people seeking complicated chemical treatments for their hair might want experts with more training than the state now requires; people who only want a haircut might not care how much their barber knows about chemicals they don’t need used on them.

In any event, it’s hard to imagine that most barbers need 1500 hours of training just for safety. Yet Indiana requires barbers to get 1500 hours of “instruction in a barber school.”

Yes, Ed Clere should blush. And he should blush even more when he’s reminded that he has a license for another profession that might be freed from licensure under the same bill.

Yet freeing a profession from licensure benefits even the licensed professionals. Under a licensing scheme, they may have a hard time moving to another state; they may be at risk of losing their license in various situations and being banned from practice.

More fundamentally, to work under a license is to live under a law that says you do not have a right to do the work by which you support your life: you only have permission.

And this is the biggest reason Ed Clere and anyone who wants his profession to require a license should blush: Such a person either has, or by misunderstanding the meaning of freedom gives himself the appearance of having, a spirit that hates freedom, that fears to prove itself, that prefers to exist by special permission instead of by its own achievement, instead of by the value it is and can create. It takes more than a cosmetologist, licensed or not, to make beauty out of that. It takes philosophy.