A Threadbare Justification for Occupational Licensing

We’ll take good news about New Mexico’s 2017 legislative session any way we can get it, and the passage of HB 341, however modest its likely impact, is good news.

Prior to a few days ago, Errors of Enchantment had no idea what eyebrow threading was. But we quickly got up to speed, learning that the process involves a beautician using “a cotton thread to open and close loops around … facial hair, removing it at its follicles.” Threading traces its origin to ancient Asia, and is becoming increasing popular in America.

You know where this story is headed. Recent years have seen bureaucrats target eyebrow-threaders for violating regulations pertaining to cosmetology.

Arizona, Texas, Louisiana — in state after state, threading entrepreneurs have had to resort to legal action to free themselves from training and certification mandates that rarely pertain to their craft. As an Institute for Justice attorney told The Washington Free Beacon: “Eyebrow threading is a simple technique that uses just a single strand of cotton thread and nothing else. The government cannot force threaders to quit work and waste time and money learning cosmetology techniques that threaders do not use. That’s not just wrong; it’s unconstitutional.”

So here’s an “attaboy” to the 53 representatives and 27 senators who voted for HB 341, which exempts “persons providing only eyebrow-threading services” from the state’s Barbers and Cosmetologists Act as of June 16 of this year. It’s a step, however small, toward reality-based occupational licensing — something both the left and the right have united behind. (A 2015 report from Barack Obama’s Department of the Treasury, Council of Economic Advisers, and Department of Labor noted that “by making it harder to enter a profession, licensing can … reduce employment opportunities and lower wages for excluded workers, and increase costs for consumers.”)

In 2012, the Institute for Justice found that New Mexico was “the ninth most broadly and onerously licensed state with the 12th most burdensome licensing laws.” Yet despite the benefits that HB 341 will surely bring, legislators, almost unanimously, approved HB 295, which extended the sunset dates for a number of dubious licensing bureaucracies, including the Board of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the Private Investigations Advisory Board, and the Interior Design Board. Lots more work remains, it appears, to educate lawmakers about needless occupational red tape.

An explosion of eyebrow-threading shops won’t turn around the Land of Enchantment’s dismal economy, but liberating the profession from unnecessary regulations is to be commended.

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