Occupational Licensing

Licensing Reform Opponents Say Unlicensed Barbers Would Be as Dangerous as Unlicensed Chefs. Chefs Aren't Licensed.

Texas barbers and cosmetologists turn to fearmongering.

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John Margolies/LOC/Cover Images/Newscom

Barbers and cosmetologists in Texas warn that repealing mandatory licenses for their professions would be as dangerous as having unlicensed chefs preparing your meals.

Chefs are not, in fact, subject to government licensing.

"Would you just sit down and just let anyone cut your hair? Or, would you allow your daughters, or your wife go out and just have anybody do their hair? I don't think so," hairdresser Lyn Doan tells News 6. "Are you just going to let anybody cook your food, and eat it, and not know if the kitchen is clean or not? I mean this is ridiculous, I've never heard of such a thing."

It certainly is ridiculous, but not in the way Doan means. Indeed, her argument captures both the absurdity of claiming that barber licenses are necessary to protect public health and the sheer desperation of licensed barbers and cosmetologists to maintain their protectionist regime. As in other places, Texas barbers and cosmetologists are stoking unfounded fears because there really isn't a good, practical argument for forcing cosmetologists to have 1,500 hours of training—as is currently required in Texas, where emergency medical technicians are required to have only 120 hours of training.

But the comparison to chefs is a good one—though again, not in the way that Doan means. That's a profession where there is an obvious interest in protecting public health, but that goal is accomplished through a combination of government regulations and market mechanisms that do not include one-size-fits-all licensing laws.

When you go to a restaurant—whether it's a McDonald's or the most expensive steakhouse in Texas—the lack of licensing laws for chefs doesn't mean that you're "going to let anybody cook your food," as Doan puts it. You're trusting that, first and foremost, the restaurant has a strong incentive not to employ chefs who are bad at their jobs or a danger to your health. At higher-caliber establishments, you're also assuming that the chefs have completed higher levels of training and have achieved certain professional certification. (Some places may even advertise as much as a way to get you in the door.) And, of course, the government plays a background role by inspecting the facilities for cleanliness.

In other words, there's a market for chefs that sorts them based on their skills, experience, and technique. Removing licensing for barbers and cosmetologists would likely produce a similar arrangement. People who want to cut hair and can show they know the basics of how to do it could work at the hair-styling equivalent of a fast food joint, while those with more training and better skills would be in demand at upscale salons and could demand higher pay. Private certifications could replace licensing as a way for workers to signal their skills to prospective employers and clients, and the government could reduce its role to inspections that regulate the physical space where barbering takes place.

To really understand how ridiculous the barber and cosmetology licensing regimes are, flip the whole analogy on its head. Applying the same regulatory process to chefs would create a world where flipping burgers would require a degree from a restaurant school. It's possible, I suppose, that forcing all chefs to have that high level of training might have minuscule benefits to public health. But it would make it much more difficult to find a job in the food service industry—and consumers would probably have to pay $25 for a Happy Meal.

Abolishing barber and cosmetology licensing won't cause a scourge of public health problems, but it would provide greater economic opportunities.

"Cosmetology is a field in which the consumer can be trusted to seek out the best service provider without any serious risk of harm. There are several vocations in Texas that pertain to aspects of public safety like car mechanics, personal trainers, and electrologists that are not required by the state to be licensed," state Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano), who is sponsoring the licensing reform bill, tells News 6. "Texans that are willing to join the workforce and compete—especially low income Texans looking to improve their lives—should face the fewest obstacles possible, and by requiring a cosmetology license, we're creating unnecessary obstacles for those who want to earn a living."

He's right. Requiring one-size-fits all licensing for Texan barbers and cosmetologists makes as much sense as requiring that the guy making your burrito at Chipotle has as much training as a line cook at an establishment with a Michelin star.

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43 responses to “Licensing Reform Opponents Say Unlicensed Barbers Would Be as Dangerous as Unlicensed Chefs. Chefs Aren't Licensed.

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    1. She got a license for that?

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  2. If only there were licensing laws for politicians. A 250,000 hour training requirement should do it.

  3. my buddy’s mother-in-law makes $72/hr on the . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $21863 just working on the for a few hours. Read more on this site

    1. Get a license and then we can talk, Bot!

  4. “Chefs are not licensed? How did we miss that?”

    1. Well, crap. Now there’s another fee we’ll have to cover when we go out to eat.

  5. Wait; you mean to tell me that CHEFS AREN’T LICENSED?! OMG, something MUST be done about that! I can’t be eating food prepared by some unlicensed and un-certified tyro!

    1. I feel ill…

  6. All licensing boards should be prosecuted under RICO statutes.

    “Nice little job you want there; be a shame if you didn’t get training from my school.”

    1. “Nice little job you want there; be a shame if you didn’t get training from my school.”

      THIS is most of it right there.

      I am a licensed Professional Engineer. What is the big benefit to society for professional engineering licensing? Nothing. But take a look at who is on the state boards …. college professors (from mostly State Universities). Every few years they try to tighten up the educational requirements … in particular, more on the school that can teach “real engineering” via ABET certification. More and more on taking additional education (that is increasingly oriented toward college type instruction) to keep that license.

      Many of the best engineers I have worked with are unlicensed and most of the truly useless were licensed.

      The entire thing is a scam. Call it the Full Employment For Professors scam.
      (And yes, I have the degree and the license, so what? My work speaks for me.)

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  8. Some governments require a certificate to handle food in the name of food safety. Sometimes is the owner, sometimes it’s all food handlers. Perhaps that’s what they are referring to. However, these certificates are nothing like the licensing regimes.

    1. Last time my friend had to take a food handler’s test, it was online (open internet!) and multiple choice. I would maybe support something that easy.

    2. In several states, the requirement is that at least one person with a food safety certificate is on duty if the restaurant is open.

      One day class, straightforward exam. Online re-test renewals.

  9. I’ve had a some terrible food cooked in a restaurant and I’ve had terrible haircuts. Licensing had nothing to do with it.

  10. I agree the requirements for cosmotology here in Texas is insane but there must be some training because they do used dyes and other chemicals which can cause serious burns and harm is used incorrectly. They also need to understand how to kees their tools clean and sanitized. However 1500 hours is ridiculous. No one has ever died from a bad haircut, but people have been poisoned and died from improperly prepared food. In Texas you do not need a license but you must get a food handlers card from the county health department. Mainly they check you for diseases like hepatiti. The training is a day and you are done. I would guess the people fighting the most run the cosmotology schools or are trying to limit the number of people competing for business

    1. They use the same dyes and chemicals which are sold over the counter for use with no more training than the ability to read the label. Tools clean and sanitized? This is hair, not food. What bad do you think could happen if someone combs your hair right after combing someone else’s?

      I’m sorry but I’m not even buying your argument that a day of training is justified in this case.

      1. What bad do you think could happen if someone combs your hair right after combing someone else’s?

        Lice and disease.

        I mean, you know that’s why public hat racks mostly went away, right? It’s not because people stopped wearing hats, it’s because they’re vectors for lice and disease.

        1. It is remotely possible to transfer a lice egg via a comb. Rare, but possible. More possible with a brush but nowhere near the risk of sharing a hat. And the fix is to wash your hair with a special shampoo.

          Other diseases? Citation, please. Other than lice, I can think of no hair-transmissible diseases unless you’ve got open wounds on your head (in which case you have bigger problems than getting your hair cut today). And even if you did, your risks in the barbershop are no greater than your risks in the department store or the grocery – retail environments which require no training at all.

    2. “there must be some training”

      As happens in many other industries like mine (software engineering), private training/certifications will come along provided consumers (or employers) want some level of proof of an employee’s training and capabilities. Of course, someone will quickly start up a business to make money who really doesn’t know what they’re doing. This is where some level of responsibility falls on the consumer. You have to allow for the possibility that this minimally trained person actually does an excellent job and doesn’t harm his/her customers. But if they do harm consumers, then word of mouth and consumer vigilance are the answer. You walk into a new barber shop/salon, and you ask to see proof of the quality of their knowledge and work through either testimonials or certifications they privately sought. The bad ones don’t stay in business long. Good ones aren’t required to jump through unproductive and crony hoops just to do business, and as a result competition increases, innovation increases, and your cost as a consumer drops.

      1. Actually, back in the day it was easy to choose a barber. Walk into the shop and pick the guy with the worst haircut.

        (Because he was the one the other barbers in the shop had cut their hair.)

  11. I agree with TxJack 112 as stated above.

    However, there is one important discernment which ought be made:

    A barber and a hairdresser are NOT synonymous.

    Only a barber can offer a shave.

    Me personally, I’d rather know that the person holding a highly-sharpened edge of steel to my neck whilst I sit helpless in their chair is one who has had enough training hours to ensure this is actually the job they A: want bad enough to jump through such hoops for, and B: has received adequate training for.

    Whether 1500 is too high a number for barbers I don’t know, but it is almost certainly too high for cosmetologists and hairdressers.

    1. “, I’d rather know that the person holding a highly-sharpened edge of steel to my neck whilst I sit helpless in their chair is one who has had enough training hours ”

      And you CAN know this, even without government involvement and licensing boards. Imagine that!

    2. “Me personally, I’d rather know that the person holding a highly-sharpened edge of steel to my neck whilst I sit helpless in their chair is one who has had enough training hours to ensure this is actually the job they A: want bad enough to jump through such hoops for, and B: has received adequate training for.”

      Hint; it doesn’t work that way.
      Drive around any major city and you’ll pretty quickly find that cab drivers (who have plenty of practice) are about the worst drivers on the streets.

    3. And yet barbers in all the non-Texas places around the world manage to give shaves without slashing their customers’ throats.

    4. I’ll scrape off my own stubble, thankyouverymuch.

      If I don’t like the way a barber cuts my hair, I’ll choose a different one next time. If I do like it, I’ll go back to him or her. Problem solved.

  12. “And, of course, the government plays a background role by inspecting the facilities for cleanliness.”

    Even this service of course does not require government to perform it. Obviously.

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  14. Headline? is misleading, bordering on lying. She didn’t say that chefs are licensed. She was obviously referring to health inspections.
    ________
    ?”Licensing Reform Opponents Say Unlicensed Barbers Would Be as Dangerous as Unlicensed Chefs. Chefs Aren’t Licensed.”

  15. “Would you allow your daughters, or your wife go out and just have anybody do their hair?”

    Not if I lived in Saudi Arabia. In Texas, I didn’t know I had a veto.

    1. I’m also from Texas. Veto? I don’t even get to have an opinion.

  16. I would like licensing boards more if they required something more like ten hours of training and a practical exam. Once self-declared generalists start accumulating licenses recreationally, then the licensing system will be at the right level. Income from license fees would go up, too!

  17. We let unlicensed legislators write laws, and look where that’s gotten us.

  18. Worse than allowing untrained politicians to make laws, we allow lawyers to be legislators, and make laws!

  19. In some jurisdictions there are license requirements for serving food to the public that are limited to the public safety aspect. Here in British Columbia the operator of a restaurant or other food service must have a current Foodsafe certificate. Such a certificate requires eight hours of classroom instruction and may also be obtained online or by correspondence. See: http://www.foodsafe.ca/

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  21. In the 70’s, I started fixing TV’s from my home in New Orleans, advertising with hand delivered notes to people’s doors. I decided to go legal and went to the govt for a permit. They told me I needed a 5 month course and to pay several hundred dollars to them! But I was a radar instructor in the army, and had been in electronics for years!

    So I went over to MS, about 30 minutes away, and asked there. They said, “fill out this page, and pay us $10.” That started my decades long successful business, and made me a good citizen of MS!

  22. Heaven FORBID people have more choices! — Says Nanny-State advocates

  23. Who has actually verified the license and other credentials of their personal care physician? Not me.

  24. Here in Utah:

    Thirty-NINE weeks of training to be licensed as a barber and be allowed to go out in public with scissors and a trimmer.

    FIFTEEN weeks of training to be licensed as a “peace officer” and be allowed in public with a badge and a gun.

    It doesn’t take a math degree to know one of those numbers is irrational.

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