Joe Biden

Joe Biden Is Right: Occupational Licensing Laws for Hairdressers Are ‘Not Helping Workers’

If anything, he's understating how ridiculous they are.

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Now here's a way Joe Biden can put his interest in other peoples' hair to better use:

The setting was a speech this morning, where Biden talked about ways that working-class Americans often get "the shaft." Occupational licensing was one of his examples, and it was a good one. Rather than helping workers—or consumers—such laws often serve as an artificially, arbitrary barrier to gainful employment.

In fact, Biden is actually underselling how difficult it can be to become a hair stylist. In most states, legally working in such a job requires you to become a full-fledged cosmetologist, and getting a cosmetology license often requires years of expensive schooling. According to the Institute for Justice's 2017 report on state licensing laws, there is not a single state where someone can qualify for a cosmetology license with a mere 400 hours of training. In New York, the state with the lowest training requirements, a would-be stylist still needs 1,000 hours of classes before getting a job.

In other places, the requirements get even more absurd. Arizona has a specific license for blow-dry specialists—that is, someone who only blow dries and styles hair without cutting or applying any chemicals or dyes—and it takes 1,000 hours of training to earn it.

There is little doubt that occupational licensing laws limit employment opportunities, particularly for working-class Americans who might be able to earn a living as, say, barbers if they didn't have to first spend thousands of dollars learning something they already know how to do. And if you get caught trying to earn a living without a government-issued permission slip—like Elias Zarate, a Tennessee man who was denied a license because he did not graduate from high school, as if that has anything to do with being a good barber—you'll face thousands of dollars in fines.

During Biden's time as vice president, the Council of Economic Advisers issued a landmark report on the economic consequences of licensing laws. The conclusions? Licensing results in "significantly higher prices" for consumers while benefiting politically connected special interests (in this case, license holders) and creating an environment where many jobs "are only accessible to those with the time and means to complete what are often lengthy" licensing requirements. Immigrants, individuals with criminal records, and anyone with student loans in default face a particularly difficult path to getting licensed, thanks to arbitrary restrictions.

So Biden is absolutely right to conclude that occupational licensing laws are giving working-class Americans the shaft. That's a message that could set him apart from some other presidential candidates in the Democratic field for 2020. (Biden has not declared his candidacy yet, but by all appearances he is preparing to run.)

As Reason's Christian Britschgi pointed out yesterday, Biden has had a hand in crafting "some of the worst tough-on-crime policies around, including civil asset forfeiture, mandatory minimum sentencing, and an expanded federal death penalty." Today he demonstrated that there's another side to that coin, and he deserves praise for singling out hairdressing licensing laws for criticism. Given his history of rubbing people's shoulders, maybe he could get on board with rolling back massage therapist licensing too.

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27 responses to “Joe Biden Is Right: Occupational Licensing Laws for Hairdressers Are ‘Not Helping Workers’

  1. If only he were willing to extend that logic to all forms of regulation, including minimum wage laws.

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    1. Who are you plugging now?

      That’s neither hair nor there!!!!

  2. The Party chairman is going to have to explain to him again that those are features, not bugs.

  3. I’ve never understood how anyone thinks barbers or cosmetologists need so much schooling — 1000 hours is full time six months, 2000 hours is a full year. Even if you can cook up some need to recognize ringworm or head lice, how does that take more than an hour or two?

    My guess is that 999 of those hours are low paid jobs; indentured servants of a sort, apprentices maybe. I’d really like to get those cosmetology board members under oath and ask them to explain where those 1000 or 2000 hours of study go. Make sure they understand that the penalty for not answering in detail will mean they need to spend a full year studying the same material.

    1. All of this shit is just welfare for academia! We need more and more and more degrees and hours of schooling, says academia? Us super-smart professors have to be paid for SOMETHING, we say!!! Now listen you here!!!

      Too many doctors? Well, GIVE THEM SOME WORK!!! Require them to issue a prescription before you can scratch your own asshole!!! THAT will give them some work!!! Justify endless degreeism too then…

      (As a degreed EE, I am awaiting you having to get a PRESCRIPTION from me, before you buy a PC or an alarm clock radio!!!)

      Do NOT blow on a cheap plastic flute w/o a prescription, I am tellin’ ya!!!

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      1. I can’t help myself:

        barbering school ? “academia”

      2. “All of this shit is just welfare for academia!”

        Correct, sqrlsy.

        “Too many doctors?”

        This has never been the case. The AMA limits residencies so that we actually have fewer doctors than we could. It’s one of the many reasons for bloated healthcare costs.

        1. It’s crazy to read the articles from the ’80s proclaiming this huge doctor glut on the horizon, because back then they were honest about the fact they wanted to limit competition to keep doctor salaries high. Uh….mission accomplished?

    2. By my back-of-the-napkin calculation, 1000 hours is almost three semesters of real graduate school classroom hours.

  4. As the most famous hair scent connoisseur, Joe has his finger on the pulse of America’s barbers like no other.

  5. And Joe has given the working conditions of hairdressers a lot of though — a LOT of thought.

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  7. Hahaha. 1000 hours to do hair. With no hours of training and a check that didn’t bounce, In CT I got a home remodelers registration for $30. . . Of course they upped that yearly fee to $160 since they are nearly bankrupt. Now it is $220 as they are closer to bankruptcy. And the house could fall down or bad electrical burn you up! Granted it is not a “license”, but with it you can do any residential work.

  8. Joe Biden Says Something that Sounds Vaguely Like He Might be Somewhat Against Overregulation, Sometimes, As Long As There’s Supervision–Liberaltarians Waste No Time Losing Their Shit Praising Him for it

  9. To put this in perspective, I need 5 Continuing Education Credits, or 50 hours, of training over 5 years in order to keep my Early Childhood Teaching license. Early childhood educators without a license need fewer. So the lady who cuts my hair needs more training than someone who teaches children? That’s ridiculous.

  10. Whoever the lil “blogger” is who wrote this, their obvious lack of education required to type up your bullshit and post it thinking other people actually want to read your misinformed jargon is outstanding. Clearly this writer knows about stylist need to understand chemistry and trichology for color corrections, smoothing/perming, chemical blowouts and other chemical services. Or Electricity for electrolysis, knowledge of the integumentary system for basic to advanced laser treatments, hair removal and other skin treatments. They must know how to sculpt hair, cut with all tools from razor and shears to clippers and other tools. Not to mention the complicated styles for weddings, proms and other skills needed for finished desires. Let’s no forget the business classes and school needed be independently licensed, own a salon/spa or how this industry works in different demographically diverse areas. Obviously this dumb ass of keyboard warrior did his do diligence and educated himself on how fuckin easy all this is to do, right? Give me a break. This MFer should think about his fuckin education, lack there of where it got him typing up stupid shit on the internet thinking he knows something about something. Get a real fucking job you fucking idiot.

    1. Wow, get over yourself. You’re a hairdresser.

  11. “Now here’s a way Joe Biden can put his interest in other peoples’ hair to better use”

    well played, you sly dog …

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