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.