by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
A new Institute for Justice report focuses on the folly of some states — North Carolina included! — of requiring an occupational license to practice African hair braiding. This is “a traditional art and a time-tested way of caring for tightly coiled Afro-textured hair naturally, without scissors, heat or chemicals.”
I suspect the presence or absence of an African hair braiding license is a measure of the strength of the state’s cosmetology lobby, but that’s beside the point. Here is how North Carolina’s ridiculously unnecessary license stacks up with other states’ in terms of training hours required (300 for would-be braiders in N.C.) … you know, for something that young girls just learn, half the world away.
As you can see, Mississippi is listed among the sensible states without licensure. It was not always so. Melony Armstrong, a hair braider in Tupelo, Miss., was instrumental in beating back Mississippi’s licensing requirements for hair braiders.
Here’s an excerpt from her testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives. It is in keeping with what I said earlier this week about licensing keeping poor communities from reaping a double dividend of entrepreneurship and much-needed new jobs, goods, and services in their communities.
Armstrong spoke about the “power of one entrepreneur”:
Every day across Mississippi, hundreds of low-income families are housed because of my advocacy and hard work. But I don’t run a shelter.
They are clothed through what I’ve done. But I don’t run a second-hand clothing store.
They are fed as a direct result of what I have achieved and continue to achieve. But I don’t run a soup kitchen.
I have transformed the lives of literally hundreds of poor women in my state of Mississippi not because I sought out government assistance for them; rather, because I demanded that the government get out of my way so I could provide for myself and for my family, and so other women around me could do likewise in peace, dignity and prosperity.
What I achieved and what each of these women is now achieving across the American Southeast is happening because of one simple fact: We demanded the government respect our economic liberty — the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of our choice free from unnecessary government regulation.
I am an African hairbraider.