A License to Kill Jobs

Do You Have a Permit for That?

We all occasionally look for ways to earn some extra cash when the opportunity presents itself. And in a free society, it should be easy to provide goods or services to those who want them. But, as Katie discovers, there are consequences to simply meeting a customer’s needs if the government knows about it.

Starting a business is tough. Acquiring the skills necessary to succeed, attracting and retaining customers, and outcompeting the competition are not easy feats to accomplish. It can be even tougher once government regulations are thrown into the mix.

According to the National Small Business Association, the average small business spends $12,000 just to comply with the regulations. And that is after you get any occupational licenses (government mandated permission slips to work) that you might need. Occupational licenses usually come with hefty fees, lengthy and expensive educational requirements, and ongoing obligations to maintain the credential. Many occupations still require a license in spite of the overwhelming evidence that such requirements rarely achieve their goal of protecting public safety, and usually only serve as a mechanism for established businesses to keep out new competitors.

But how are the police involved? Well, government regulations are still laws, and enforcing the law is inherently violent. Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter explains, “Behind every exercise of law stands the sheriff—or the SWAT team—or if necessary the National Guard. Is this an exaggeration? Ask the family of Eric Garner, who died as a result of a decision to crack down on the sale of untaxed cigarettes.”

So, are police departments regularly using SWAT teams to raid un-licensed hair salons? Not typically. But, SWAT raids have increased dramatically in recent years, with deployments for increasingly trivial crimes. And aspiring hair care professionals are required to get an expensive cosmetology license in every state, with educational requirements averaging 372 days of training (far exceeding the training requirements for most Emergency Medical Technicians). The state of Arizona even cracked down on an un-licensed barber-in-training because he was giving free haircuts to the homeless. Giving free haircuts to the less fortunate shouldn’t be illegal.

It’s time for a change. Government shouldn’t prevent people from providing services to those that want them. So, for all the side-hustlers out there, it’s crucial that we fully understand the nature of the law and the unintended consequences of having so many on the books. Only then can we challenge the status quo and protect our rights to peacefully earn a living.

Ben Wilterdink is a Research Fellow and former Editor-in-Chief of Catalyst at the Independent Institute.
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