To paraphrase English playwright William Congreve, hell hath no fury like an occupational licensing board catching wind of an “nonprofessional” practicing said profession.
In Arizona, for example, the state board of cosmetology is investigating Juan Carlos Montesdeoca after receiving a complaint that he gave free haircuts to the homeless.
Montesdeoca committed the deeds on Jan. 28 at a downtown Tucson library, after organizing the event through a Facebook group and soliciting help from volunteers. He did it “out of the kindness of my heart,” and in memory of his mother, who loved her hair, he told Tucson News Now.
That didn’t set well with the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, which began an investigation after it received an anonymous complaint alleging that Montesdeoca was “requesting local businesses and local stylists to help out with free haircuts (unlicensed individuals) to the homeless.”
What one man views as charity another sees as unwanted competition, apparently.
The Arizona board is pulling out its big bag of disjoined logic in an effort to keep Montesdeoca and other “do-gooders” like him from helping those unable to afford haircuts.
Those getting their hair cut outside a licensed salon by an unlicensed person run a real risk, according to Donna Aune, the board’s executive director, adding that state law prohibits a person from practicing cosmetology without a license.
Remember, we’re talking about haircuts, not letting back-alley butchers remove gall bladders.
It wasn’t too long ago that those who wanted to braid hair legally in South Carolina had to demonstrate 300 hours of training. If one decided to use hair extensions as part of said braiding, regulations required a full cosmetologist curriculum, some 1,500 hours of class.
I’ve seen youngsters learn to braid hair in 15 minutes. What possible reason could there be to have required 300 hours of training, or to force someone who wants to apply extensions to take a 1,500-hour cosmetologist curriculum except to winnow out competition?
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the costs of occupational licenses outweigh the benefits. For hair braiding, as for many other occupations, licensing appears to do little more than prevent some people from earning an honest living in the occupation of their choice.
In 2012, Mississippi, which requires zero hours of training, had more than 1,200 registered braiders. Neighboring Louisiana, which requires 500 hours, had only 32 licensed braiders – despite its larger black population, according to the Institute for Justice.
Reason.com had some pithy comments regarding the potential risks involved with having an unlicensed individual cut the hair of the homeless in Tucson:
“The risk of getting a bad haircut is certainly chilling. But these were free haircuts. Free haircuts given to people who were in no position to pay for one. I’m sure they were aware of the risk they were taking by letting the unlicensed Montesdeoca cut their hair outside of a licensed salon environment, but they were probably okay with that level of risk considering they were homeless and were getting haircuts for free,” according to the magazine.
A problem many homeless have when it comes to job hunting is presenting well when it comes time for an interview. A decent haircut can go a long way toward boosting self-esteem and making a good first impression.
But the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, whose members likely weren’t serving these individuals in the first place, is more interested in making sure absolutely no one infringes on their monopoly.
(Top: You could give this homeless man in Tucson food, money and a job, but not a free haircut – unless you’re a licensed cosmetologist – thanks to the heavy hand of the Arizona Board of Cosmetology.)