by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
The Institute for Justice has announced lawsuits in three different states — Arkansas, Missouri, and Washington — as part of its Braiding Freedom initiative.
North Carolina recently acquiesced to cosmetologists to require licenses for African hair braiders (i.e., entrepreneurs). The cosmetology
guild board was put out, it seems, by the thought that African immigrants could braid hair for pay without having crossed all of licensing’s barriers against competition (however remote that competition could be). So they prevailed upon legislators to save the state from the manifest dangers of braiders who hadn’t taken 300 hours’ worth of cosmetology classes.
I wrote about it as part of my Carolina Cronyism report on occupational licensing:
Case in point: in 2010 lawmakers decreed that African hair-braiding — something that uses no chemicals and that is typically learned in immigrants’ girlhoods — would require a license, including 300 hours’ worth of costly cosmetology training. The law placed a significant hardship on practitioners, many of whom are poor immigrants from West Africa with little grasp of English.
A similar licensing scheme was recently thrown out of court in Utah. The federal judge rapped state officials in his ruling, a portion of which merits quoting here:
The State does not know which schools, if any, teach African hair braiding; how many hours, if any, of African hair braiding instruction are available at those unknown schools; or whether the unknown number of hours of instruction at those unknown schools are mandatory or elective. …
Utah’s cosmetology/barbering licensing scheme is so disconnected from the practice of African hairbraiding, much less from whatever minimal threats to public health and safety are connected to braiding, that to premise [petitioner] Jestina [Clayton]’s right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights.
Could it be that by failing to uphold what the North Carolina Constitution guarantees in Article 1, Section 1 — the right of all persons to “the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor” — North Carolina’s leaders have positioned the state for as embarrassing a court ruling as the one handed down in Utah?