by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
Powerful words before a U.S. House subcommittee by an African hair braider who helped beat back Mississippi’s licensure requirements on African hair braiders:
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.
And if a lone braider in Tupelo, Miss., could have such a transformative impact helping to change the law to free so many around me to earn an honest living, imagine what could happen across our nation if state and local governments followed that example.
Not every entrepreneur is a Bill Gates or a Henry Ford. Some are and will remain more humble in the scope of their impact. But that doesn’t mean the impact is not significant in the lives of those around them.
Imagine the creative forces that would be unleashed if government respected the rights of other would-be entrepreneurs who want to braid hair, or drive cabs, or sell flowers by the roadside, or pursue any of a hundred or more occupations that would otherwise be easy to pursue if only the government didn’t needlessly stop entrepreneurs from doing so for no better reason than to protect the politically powerful from competition.
Each day, I work to demonstrate the power of one entrepreneur.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina,
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.