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The Guild-ed Age
Progress on Licensing in the Cornhusker State

Political and legal momentum against gratuitous occupational licensing regulations has been building over the last year: The Texas Supreme Court ruled that some of the state’s licensing requirements are so onerous as to be unconstitutional; a U.S. Senator recently held hearings on whether professional organizations promulgating these rules run afoul of federal anti-trust laws; and even deep-blue California is looking for ways to encourage employment and enterprise by revising its particularly onerous professional credentialing system.

And now Nebraska’s state government has taken a modest but meaningful step to curb runaway licensing in the state. The Daily Signal reports:

Just two weeks ago, Nebraskans who wanted to make money braiding hair had to undergo 2,100 hours of training to obtain a cosmetology license, which state officials say dedicates little time to natural hair braiding techniques.

But now Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has signed legislation into law that will lift arduous occupational licensing requirements on the state’s hair braiders.

State Sen. Nicole Fox, R-Omaha, who introduced the legislation, said cosmetology licensing in the state requires nearly two years of schooling and costs $20,000 to $22,000 in tuition.

Changes to hair braiding regulations in a state with under two million people might not seem like a particularly significant development in the broader context of American economic policy. But licensing regulations as a whole—especially in working class professions like hair braiding, eyebrow threading, tree trimming, and so on—have been becoming steadily more intrusive over the last several decades, depressing wages for the majority of workers and quashing social mobility. According to one study, the share of workers who require has grown from five to 35 percent since 1950.

Reforming the system so that it works in the interests of consumers who need protection—rather than guild insiders looking to hoard their market share—will probably be an incremental process undertaken at the state level. Hopefully other states will follow Nebraska’s lead.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Hair braiding today. Flower arranging tomorrow. You’d think the slippery-slope people would be on fire over the dire implications implicit in letting just any people perform these dangerous activities.

    • Dan

      Next thing you know we will have unlicensed monks coffin making… oh wait, that was actually a thing:

      Under Louisiana law, it was a crime for anyone but a government-licensed funeral director to sell “funeral merchandise,” which includes caskets. To sell caskets legally, the monks would have had to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming.

      The consumers of those products would clearly be in serious danger from the menace of unlicensed caskets.

      • FriendlyGoat

        I’m of the opinion that legislatures are NOT the place to discuss licensing requirements. We really need citizen polls in the states sorting out which professions really need a license and which do not. The trade associations and lobbyists should just have no power at all in these decisions—-and that’s not where we find ourselves, unfortunately.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Alert the media! We agree again….

          • FriendlyGoat

            “It happens.” (Which may remind you of a once-famous bumper sticker.)

        • Dan

          The problem is that you can’t get people to vote for President, you think you are going to get them to vote on hair braiding licensing? Even if you could, I would bet that you might not get the results you expect and that people would vote for even more licensing. The only people who would be bothered to vote would be those who have a vested interest in it which would be, drum roll please… trade association members, their families, etc..

          I think the standard that courts use to judge these cases is the problem. Like most economic regulation cases the standard is ‘rational basis’ which is the lowest level of scrutiny the courts apply i.e. the gov’t has a rational reason for enacting the law and it doesn’t impact a fundamental right. I believe they should use strict scrutiny i.e. a compelling state interest licensing doctors for example, (assuming we need gov’t licensing of dr.’s in the first place, I’m not sure we couldn’t leave that to insurance companies – a dr. can’t practice unless he can get malpractice insurance and the insurance company won’t provide insurance w/o the dr. having whatever qualifications they determine necessary) or at least intermediate scrutiny – an important state interest.

          I can’t see how hair braiding regulations could meet any of these tests.

          Here is another example from my adopted state of CT:

          “the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a policy of the Connecticut Dental Commission that threatens teeth-whitening entrepreneurs with fines and jail time if they position low-powered LED teeth-whitening lights in front of their customers’ mouths. The court upheld the policy—challenged in 2011 by the Institute for Justice (IJ)—even though these lights are no more powerful than a household flashlight and even though it is perfectly legal to make these lights available for customers to position in front of their own mouths”

          1. Not sure why the state needs a dental commission in the first place.
          2. Give you one guess as to who sits on the DENTAL commission

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, it’s true that low turn-out and low interest is a political problem on many issues. But the people are the ones left with the consequences of decisions between:

            A) Would I be worried that an unlicensed teeth-whitening practitioner could harm me or other people?


            B) Do I pay more for teeth whitening because they make people get a license to do it? Or. would I like to become a teeth whitener and would it be too hard to get in that business?

          • Dan

            I would say the answer to A is no and the answer to B is yes.

            A) The regs state that it is perfectly legal to make these lights available to customers to position in front of their own mouths so clearly it is not the act of doing it that is the concern. I also just went to amazon and there are 319 offerings for LED teeth whitening kits so clearly it is fine to do it yourself. You can even find them on more professional dental wholesale websites to be sold, presumably retail by dental practices (like how salons sell gel and other hair care products) so it appears that dentists do not find people doing this at home a concern as long as they are the ones doing the selling. Since these products are readily available to even the most novice teeth whitener, I would venture that it is safe. As best I can tell in an admittedly brief search, they are not even FDA regulated as medical devices.

            B) It’s always about the $$ If these unlicensed teeth whiteners weren’t charging less, and we have already established that they are safe enough to be done at home, why else would the dentist lobby care?

            I think this short video sums it up quite nicely:

          • FriendlyGoat

            Good video.

            I think it is most recently Thomas Piketty who has pointed out that economics is too important a subject (for everyone) to be left to economists. Perhaps power over sensible tooth whitening service should not be left to dentists.

          • Dan

            And hen houses are too important to be left guarded by the foxes =)

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yes. You are very close to having articulated the crux of politics. But both sides use that metaphor. Some think liberals are the devouring foxes. Some think conservatives are. I’m with the latter group.

          • Dan

            I’m a libertarian so I think both sides are

          • FriendlyGoat

            Not to be unfriendly (because I am a friendly goat), I have no idea what a libertarian is. My impression from other comment writers who call themselves libertarian is that the movement is for laissez faire economic policy and little else. Your last presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, combined that with a stated desire to legalize marijuana.
            Is there more? If so, what?

          • Dan

            We want gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana plants with assault rifles.

            Here is the too long didn’t read version in pictures:





            Here is a more detailed though not inclusive explanation if you are interested.

            There are a variety of different flavors of libertarianism from anarcho-capitalist who want to eliminate the state completely and have all functions provided by private enterprises to libertarian socialist who want to get rid of capitalism and private ownership of the ‘means of production’ and have them owned by worker’s voluntary cooperatives or other such types of communal ownership. Anarcho-capitalist would be the extreme right and socialist would be the extreme left.

            Right-leaning libertarians I would argue are more ‘mainstream’ (such as it is) and generally value the rights of the individuals over the group, favor strong private property rights, believe in voluntaryism as opposed to coercion and subscribe to the non-aggression principle (i.e. self-defense good assault bad)

            A very simplistic way to put it would be to say fiscal conservative (really liberal in the original meaning of the word or as you put it above laissez-faire) and socially liberal where liberal means permissive and not coercive. For example, gay people should have the right to get married, a baker should have the right not to cater their wedding, and the remedy is to publicize their refusal far and wide to encourage others not to patronize them rather than having the government fining them into oblivion.

            I would say, generally speaking, that most libertarians lean more to the right with the exception of “social issues” specifically gay rights, drug use and vice crimes (i.e. gambling, prostitution) There is more of a split on abortion based on whether you view view a fetus as an extension of the mother or as a separate person. Personally, I am pro-choice until the baby reaches viability and then it is a person with rights first among those rights is the right not to be killed.

            I tend towards minarchism which means I think the role of the government should be to protect my rights, ‘a night-watchman’ so to speak. To that end I think the govt should provide police, military and courts and not much else. It goes without saying that the military should not used as it currently is but should be to defend the country not playing Team America World Police. in my case, it was actually the Iraq war that drove me away from being a Republican when I could no longer square my beliefs with that type of foreign policy.

            I am comfortable with a little more government in that I am OK with govt spending on basic scientific research of general applicability. Ideally it is done through universities and any products developed at a govt lab or some such entity that has commercial applicability should have the patents auctioned off to the highest bidder.

            Bottom line, more individual freedom, less government, no subsidies, tax breaks, bailouts, specially written legislation that benefits particular interests, no 800 military bases around the world.

          • FriendlyGoat

            1) I am always glad to hear from an ex-Republican, even one who retains one foot in both Left and Right camps.
            2) The pictures were good
            3) You have a great paragraph explaining how Libertarians can be all over the map on economics—-which is why I never know what a person means when claiming to be a Libertarian (except you, since you made a yeoman effort to explain your thoughts)
            4) Gay married couples with marijuana and assault rifles presumably will not need abortions—-just counting social issues on fingers
            5) I still have no idea whether Libertarians will vote for Trump, for Sanders or for another Gary Johnson (or the same Johnson again)
            6) Here are some concerns from me, a liberal.

            Corporations are not people and should not be presumed to have the enumerated rights of people, even it they are closely held. A corporation is a paper entity that cannot have religious views or unregulated freedom of speech, no matter who owns it. Although individuals have a constitutional right to lie every day (except in court and certain contracts), corporations should be required to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at all times. None of us ever signed off on giving corporations limited liability and the rights of persons at the same time.

            There are no free markets. There are regulated markets, and then there is piracy.

            In the last 200 years we have found thousands of good reasons to regulate business practices in this country and in all countries. I run away from anyone using the phrase “small government” without making a comprehensive list of exactly what regulation he or she wants repealed—-so we can all know how we will be screwed in advance.

            The income and estate taxes are the best means ever devised to make “little people” relevant to policy development, as well as “big people”. We wound or kill the progressive income tax at our peril. (Not coincidentally, we are in decline now, proportional to tax cutting already done. We are in a struggle to not let Republicans ruin the country altogether in this regard. It’s a bigger deal than most people think. Lords and serfs was never a cool model and reversion to it is easy peasy.)

            I am a huge fan of Jesus and frustrated with many to most churches.

            We’re not doing ourselves any favor by tolerating union busting.

            “Selling health insurance across state lines” is a mask for a scheme to dilute the policy standards for every private-sector employee in the country. People on groups have no idea how much they could lose fooling around with this while the gripe about Obamcare

            We might all like less emphasis on military projection by our nation.
            BUT, you can’t have it. First of all, Islam, China, Russia and North Korea are real. Secondly, if liberals or libertarians let down on so-called defense, conservatives WILL steal every issue in the process of winning elections to rebuild the “strength of America”.
            It’s just political life.

            Working class white males are their own worst political enemies. Why the heck (some of) their wives don’t have any political sense either beats me.

            I could go on to other pet peeves, but you get the idea. Thanks, BTW, for a more meaningful response above than I often get from other posters.

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