License To…Shampoo?

Take a quick glance to the right side of this web page.  Now, ask yourself why I am blogging on shampoo.  Most of my hair abandoned ship years ago, leaving something that resembled an ill-maintained lawn.  I started shaving my head when it became apparent that nature was not going to be cooperative.

Yet I can get worked up about shampoo.  (Quick joke: Shampoo is for people who can’t afford realpoo.  OK–got that one out of my system.)  More specifically, I can get worked up about licensing requirements for, among other professions, hair stylists.

I find it at least believable that Texas needs such requirements as outlined in the linked article.  After all, not just anyone can manage a head of big hair.  There are numerous safety issues involved with anchoring, bracing, and working on a Dallas coiffure. I shudder to think how many tiny hairdressers have been coished by an unbalanced tower of that stuff.

I used to get a bad haircut now and again.  My father took me to my first barber when I was three and he was ninety-three.  No kidding.  Mr. Hackney (no, I did not make that name up) could still hold scissors, but he was losing his aesthetic sense rapidly.  I think Mom was the one who finally put her foot down when my brother and I came home looking something like this:

Well, at least we didn’t have to go to church a couple of Sundays.  Which brings me to my point.  Why?  For the life of me, I cannot remember my parents wanting to: 1) sue, or 2) get more state laws passed.  They did what sane people do.  They got another barber for us.

Fortunately, Mr. Hackney could not do my brother Jeff and I much psychological damage.  At that age, we had not realized girls were different from us in some fascinating ways.  Mr. Joiner was different.  Longer hair on boys was becoming popular and my father would have none of it.  He equated long hair with…well, I never quite figured that one out.  In his mind, though, it was bad and so he took us to Mr. Joiner.

Mr. Joiner specialized in the “whitewall.”  That is the kind of haircut that leaves just enough to part on top and nothing but skin on the sides.  Each and every time we sat down in that chair, we would ask him to “leave it a little longer this time.”  Nothing radical, just a little longer.  Mr. Joiner would smile, nod his head, and proceed to make us look like we had narrowly escaped scalping at the hands of nearsighted savages.  To this day, I believe my father bribed that man.

Though I remain emotionally scarred from having to show up at school looking like that, I lived.  And so would people today.  Why the need for so many regulations by the state?  If you think it is because hair specialists really care about our well-being, please go to the head of the “sweet and innocent” line.  It’s not.  It is so they do not have to compete.

Competition is inconvenient.  It forces us to continually brace ourselves against the onslaught of innovation and improvement coming from others.  Nothing is guaranteed.  A competitor may figure out how to do more and better for less.  A regulation protects the lazy from the energetic, the dullard from the genius, and the slacker from the go-getter.  By raising the cost of entrance into the field, current practitioners are protected, not by their own competence, but by the coercive power of the state.

In the end, consumers pick up the tab for those who are protected by government power.  Competition is the forge that tempers our efforts into providing what is best for our customers at the lowest possible price.  State regulation encourages people to be lazy and forces consumers to pay more than necessary.  As we examine the role of the state in current American life, let us remember that some solutions are easy.  Drastically reducing the insane regulatory burden we have placed on people who want to make an honest living is one.


Terry hopes desperately that no one out there has an actual picture of him with whitewalls.











About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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1 Response to License To…Shampoo?

  1. Deb S. says:

    I would cut my youngest sons hair, if I could only find the clippers. He does love his buzz cuts. The elder boy prefers the Samson look, but is starting to suspect it is harming his odds of finding gainful employment here in Podunk. I can’t even remember the last time someone else cut my hair. I’ve been thinking about going to get it done lately though, if for no reason other than to lose the pony tail for a bit. 😀 (Pony tail forgives all manner of unevenness.)


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