There’s been a win for the little guy, courtesy of the Institute for Justice, the libertarian nonprofit that has targeted some of the onerous regulations on small business in Louisiana.
The winners: eyebrow threaders.
It's a hair-removal technique that until recently required hundreds of hours of expensive training to get a license to work in Louisiana.
As one might imagine, in Huey P. Long's Louisiana, there is a culture of regulation that is justified as protecting public safety. That tendency of government also protects the fees that fuel regulating agencies, and the licenses that restrict competition.
The institute has challenged restrictive laws in a variety of fields, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. The Legislature and the courts blocked, for example, the alliance of GOP lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to ease restrictions on florists.
As the governor wisely said, the market can determine whether anybody's good at arranging flowers — but that cause did not prevail.
But the institute challenged the eyebrow threading restrictions in court two years ago. A spokesman said in an emailed statement Thursday that the group is preparing to dismiss the lawsuit against the state Board of Cosmetology, originally filed on behalf of a suburban New Orleans threading salon. The board has agreed to ease its restrictions.
Threading — a technique popular in Asia and the Middle East — plucks hair by pulling twisted thread along the skin, rather than tweezing hairs out one at a time.
In Louisiana, eyebrow threading practitioners needed an esthetician's license, requiring 750 hours of beauty school courses and three licensing exams. Does that sound reasonable at all?
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit estimated that the beauty school requirement meant anywhere from $6,000 to $13,000 in expenses, The Associated Press reported.
Cosmetology Board director Steve Young said Thursday that regulations for eyebrow threaders now require only a test and a permit with costs totaling $50. He said the eased requirements for eyebrow threading permits have been in effect for about 60 days. The looser requirement, he said, "is limited to that very small portion of the cosmetology business."
"The new rule will remove pointless and burdensome barriers to working as an eyebrow threader in Louisiana," Renee Flaherty, an Institute for Justice attorney, said in a news release. "The state's cosmetology board has done the right thing by ending its unconstitutional licensing scheme."
The hand of regulation falls typically falls heaviest on entrepreneurs — perhaps particularly on immigrants who are trying to build a small business and partake in the benefits of the American Dream.
A protective racket to promote more business for schools of cosmetology, not coincidentally close to the board that regulates its professions, may or may not have been found unconstitutional, but it sure strikes us as over the top.
That's why we call this a win for the little guys in the business, and congratulate them.