Why You Can't Braid Someone's Hair In Utah For Money Without First Paying $16k

from the regulatory-control dept

The common wisdom that you'll often hear is that industries hate regulations, and would prefer deregulation. And, in certain areas that's definitely true. But, in others, industries want regulation -- but not for a good reason. It's because legacy players realize two things: (1) they can often "control" the regulatory process (hello regulatory capture) to twist it to their own advantage and (2) it's a really handy way to limit competition. We just recently wrote about some of the more ridiculous factors concerning teaching certifications. Lots of people pushed back in the comments arguing -- correctly -- that just because someone knows something, it doesn't mean they're a good teacher. But... there's another point that we made in the post that many of those people ignored: just because you "certify" teachers, it doesn't mean they're any better at teaching. In fact, as our post noted, the research has shown no noticeable difference between certified and uncertified teachers. So you can make the argument all you want that certification is somehow "needed," but if that certification doesn't seem to help at all, it's wise to at least question the certification process.

The same Planet Money folks who brought us that story recently did a podcast and a NY Times article on another example of regulatory ridiculousness. This one involved a woman who had built a small business braiding the hair of African children in Utah. The woman, Jestina Clayton, grew up in Sierra Leone, where she learned to braid hair, and when she ended up in Centerville, Utah, she discovered there was demand there, due to a large number of adopted African children, whose parents had no idea what to do with their hair. Then, someone threatened to "report" her for practicing "cosmetology" without a license. She checked it out and discovered that bizarre (but all too common) regulation made that true -- but to get her license she'd have to go to school for two years at a cost of $16,000. All to braid hair. And, even more ridiculous, none of the schools taught anything having to do with braiding hair like Clayton did. It would be a pure waste.

If you can, you should listen to the Planet Money podcast on this, because they actually get a spokesperson from the "Professional Beauty Association" try to explain why the government must regulate "professional beauty" practitioners before they kill again (well, only slight exaggeration). She does go on and on about the "consumer safety issues" of the people she's supposedly representing. My favorite risk? "Open wounds." From hair braiding?

Either way, Clayton went before the (I'm not joking) Barber, Cosmetology/Barber, Esthetics, Electrology and Nail Technology Licensing Board of Utah, to try to convince them to let her braid without a license. Apparently this became a big issue and "licensed cosmetologists" came out of the woodwork to argue against her -- and her request was denied.

As the report notes: none of this is to necessarily say that all regulation is bad and that industries don't need some sort of regulation. But, at the very least, if there is going to be regulation, shouldn't there be some evidence that it's (a) needed and (b) effective? Because, somehow, I don't think that there's a big risk from a woman braiding some kids' hair in Utah.

Filed Under: cosmetology, jestina clayton, regulation, sierra leone, utah

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2012 @ 8:19pm


    Yes, this person is trying to make it better. Most people consider it is better for a person to be gainfully employed and financially able to support themselves, and that it's better if customers have more options when choosing services to buy.

    What do you have against people trying to make some money so they are financially self supporting? Do you think everyone should be on food stamps or something?

    The $16,000 is the cost of the license if you cannot get the license without the training costs and apparently, it seems this is the case. If individual states wish to license people in this way, then it should be the state's responsibility to provide testing examination opportunities, at cost, that people can take without having to go through a training course first. If the examination is robust it will detect anyone who lacks the requisite knowledge to work safely, distinguishing those people from appropriate licensees as an ordinary task the examination exists to accomplish. If the examination cannot determine this then it's worthless for achieving its stated purpose.

    There is no reason why the self taught or family taught should be prevented from being licensed without having to pay ticket clipping "educators", provided their skills and knowledge meet a fair and reasonable standard as reflected by the license examination.

    Braiding hair does not require any chemicals whatsoever and having a license will not prevent someone from concocting their own brew and putting it on peoples' heads. It's a piece of paper not a mind control unit.

    Having a license also does not magicify the tools one uses so that comb points physically cannot enter into eyes. Liability insurance would be more useful.

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