Untangling the politics of hair braiding


Photo credit: Nicole Fineman

Hair braiding. Why would the state Legislature spend even a minute worrying about hair braiding? Representative Holly Richardson is wondering the same thing. As it stands, hair braiding is regulated by state government. It seems that it’s an issue of health and safety. The truth is that hair braiding is regulated by the state, with full support of the cosmetology industry, because of crony capitalism.

You see, the industry that calls on government for regulation is an industry bent on kicking competitors to the curb. The industry becomes a “special interest” at that point and, in this case, the cosmetology industry hints at holding back campaign funds, pushing unflattering interest-driven media or generally calling on its troops to “communicate” with their elected representatives – all to protect the industry monopoly.

[pullquote]The industry that calls on government for regulation is an industry bent on kicking competitors to the curb.[/pullquote]During a Business and Labor Interim Committee hearing, wherein Representative Richardson’s bill to deregulate hair braiding was being considered, one naïve voice of testimony actually admitted to the committee that she would think just like Representative Richardson if she hadn’t already paid lots of money and spent lots of time going to cosmetology school. The committee seemed to ignore the implications of this admission and chose to move to the next agenda item rather than vote on the bill.

It got me thinking. If this conservative state Legislature can’t get itself to deregulate hair braiding, what can it get itself to deregulate?

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “We are learning to do a great many clever things. … The next great task will be to learn not to do them.”

I hope my friend, Representative Ken Ivory, can stimulate a broader conversation on “Where’s the Line?” If hair braiding is held sacred by regulators, what isn’t?

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