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To be able to professionally offer African-style hair braiding in Missouri, you have to be a licensed cosmetologist.

To be a licensed cosmetologist, you have to complete 1,500 hours of expensive training.

To complete that 1,500 hours of training, you have to learn exactly nothing about African-style hair braiding, a centuries-old process that uses no chemicals and poses literally no risk to stylist or client.

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Oh, and did I mention it only takes 100 hours of actually relevant training to become a Missouri-licensed EMT?


And that’s the insanity that is occupational licensing in a nutshell.

To make matters even worse, this absurd hair braiding rule just got held up in court by a judge who explained his decision as a necessary effort to show “great deference” to government regulations. Reason’s Damon Root reports (emphasis added):

[This week,] Judge John M. Bodenhausen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri issued an opinion upholding Missouri’s ban on unlicensed African-style hair-braiding. “This case,” Judge Bodenhausen declared, “illustrates the great deference that federal courts must show to government regulations under the rational basis standard.”

The rational-basis standard, also known as the rational-basis test, has its origins in the great vogue for judicial deference that swept the courts during the Progressive and New Deal periods. … So long as “the laws passed are seen to have a reasonable relation to a proper legislative purpose,” [the test said] the courts should defer to that regulation and assume that “the requirements of due process are satisfied.” Put differently, if lawmakers and government lawyers claim to have a “rational basis” for the regulation, the courts are supposed to whip out the rubber stamp.

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From a pro-liberty perspective, of course, this test is the exact opposite of how courts should work. As conservative commentator George Will has argued, “the judiciary’s principal duty is the defense of liberty, and that the government, when challenged, bears the burden of demonstrating that its action is in conformity with the Constitution’s architecture, the purpose of which is to protect liberty.”

In this case, it doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out Missouri’s government is absolutely infringing on its citizens’ economic liberty in a patently stupid way.

Here’s hoping the Institute for Justice, the libertarian law firm litigating the challenge to this rule, has better luck on appeal.

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