April 06, 2005

Why go nuts regulating cornrows?

Cornrows & Co. was founded by the husband and wife team of Taalib-Din Uqdah and Pamela Farrell in the Nation's Capitol in 1980 to provide an underserved clientele quality hair braiding services.

After the company built an excellent reputation and a clientele of more than 20,000, bureaucrats ordered him to cease and desist.

Local bureaucrats ordered Uqdah to cease and desist, or be "subject to criminal prosecution." Why? Because he didn't have a license. "It's a safety issue," said the regulators. Those who run a hair salon must have a cosmetology license. The chemicals they use dyeing or perming hair might hurt someone.

Hair dye is hardly a serious safety threat, but even if it were, Cornrows & Co. didn't dye or perm hair. They only braided it. That didn't matter, said the Cosmetology Board -- they still had to get a license. In order to get one, Uqdah would have to pay about $5,000 to take more than 1,000 hours of courses at a beauty school.

Uqdah thought he understood why the cosmetology board wanted to shut down his salon: "Money -- other salons don't like the competition."

Even if licensing boards intend to protect the public, in time they are captured by the people who care most. Who cares most? Not consumers -- you don't get your hair done that often, and even if you did, you don't care enough about it to want to join a regulatory bureaucracy. Innovators don't join the boards; they're busy innovating. Scientists, economists, doctors, and others with genuine expertise in safety and commerce don't join the boards, either. They're busy doing more important things. So boards are usually captured by the licensees, the established businesses. William Jackson, a former member of the Washington, D.C., Cosmetology Board, admitted, "The board, 90 percent of the time, are salon owners."

Uqdah didn't close up shop. He hired the Institute for Justice, a legal firm, and sued in federal court. The District ultimately changed their law.

Uqdah and Farrell went on to establish the American Hairbraiders & Natural Haircare Association to help others in their situation across the nation to stave off predatory cosmetology laws, and educate the public about their industry and art.

Posted by mhking at April 6, 2005 10:23 AM

Very interesting article

Posted by: Cynthia at April 6, 2005 01:37 PM

Thanks for this article! John Stossel has some similar things to say about the subject--turn out the guilds want to maintain their exclusivity, and hair braiders are up against the cosmetologists. Fascinating example of why regulations creep up over time.

Posted by: Chap at April 6, 2005 02:48 PM

Sounds like a story to point to when someone tries to draw a distinction between "people" and "special interest groups."

Without the hairbraiders "special interest group", regular people who want to run a business braiding hair are at risk of getting screwed.

Somebody give those guys an award.

Posted by: Gib at April 6, 2005 03:23 PM

Hey, good for them. It's not often that you take on city hall and actually win--even when you're in the right.

A ridiculous law.

Posted by: zombyboy at April 6, 2005 04:58 PM

Louisiana has that one beat. You have to have a license to arrange and sell flowers. Yep! Florist license. No idea how many lives were damaged by improper placement of pansies before the government stepped in to stop the carnage...

Posted by: mostly cajun at April 6, 2005 10:34 PM

Requiring licenses for hairdressers and florists is ridiculous and so is requiring licenses for doctors and lawyers. Just like John Stossel said... those licensors are often made up of those who are in the business so they can keep their competition in check.

We've been conditioned to think that the government is so wise for requiring that doctors obtain a license, yet we don't step back and look at it objectively. Because a doctor has a license, that does not keep him from killing you with the wrong medication or misdiagnosing a disease. In fact, I think it does absolutley nothing to prevent medical malpractice. What kind of test do doctors really have to take to get their license? I seriously doubt it's a very stringent test.

My self, I check out a doctors history. I get referrals. I try to find patients of that doctor and ask what the doctor is like. But our government takes advantage of people who are too lazy and incompotent to take such responsibility for themselves. They prefer their false sense of security that comes with a government issued piece of paper.

Posted by: Clay Rains at June 12, 2005 03:16 PM
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