Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The state protects us from -- Unlicensed florists!

The Right to Work

The people of Louisiana must sleep soundly knowing that their state protects them from … unlicensed florists.
That's right. In Louisiana, you can't sell flower arrangements unless you have permission from the government. How do you get permission? You must pass a test that is graded by a board of florists who already have licenses. To prepare for the test, you might have to spend $2,000 on a special course.

As somebody who works with welfare recipients, this whole business of making it as hard as possible for somebody to set up a fledgeling business is really one of my pet peeves. Women who are good at braiding and styling hair are forbidden to pick up a little extra cash doing so unless they spend ungodly amounts of money going to beauty school and becoming licensed. They don't want to go into full-time competition with salons. (And once they graduate, they can't get enough work to pay back their student loans because there's a glut of beauty school graduates competing for the few jobs that pay enough to make payments on the loans.)

Who benefits? The beauty school, of course. They sell cosmetology courses to women they know won't be able to make a career of it. The licensed salons, of course. They shut down the small time competitors.

These women just want to be able to legally braid the hair of friends and neighbors in their apartments for a mutually agreed-upon fee. But they're forbidden to do so (or at least to report the income and count the time toward their "welfare to work" requirements) because they're not licensed. And even if they were, the Housing Authority forbids them to "operate a business" from public housing.

So women who could pay a bit more in rent to the Housing Authority, and receive a bit less in welfare, and have a little more income and self respect, are forbidden to do so. God forbid they should do anything for themselves!

What are we being protected from? Bad braids?

Let's have a hypothetical hair braider. Call her Braidy. If Braidy does bad braids, she'll get dissed all over the projects and nobody will go to her for braids. So it's not like she needs to be licensed to protect the public from bad hair styles.

Let's say we get rid of all the stupidity. Let's say we let Braidy openly charge her neighbor $50 for a hair braid. Braidy reports the income to the DPW. They give her $25 less in cash a month. Braidy reports her increased income to the Housing Authority. They raise Braidy's rent $2 a month. So the taxpayers are giving Braidy $27 less in benefits a month, Braidy has $23 dollars a month more to spend on her kids, and Braidy's neighbor got a cheaper, more convenient hair braiding job.

If Braidy gets enough of a reputation, Braidy may even earn enough money to get off welfare. She'd still be poor. She'd still be living in the projects. But she'd have her self respect, she'd be stimulating the economy by spending her additional income. She'd be setting an example for her neighbors of how to get off cash assistance.

Why is the government set up to keep this sort of thing from happening? Who benefits from keeping Braidy from making a little extra legally reported income? Who benefits from preventing Braidy's neighbor from getting a hair braid from a friend she likes to hang out with?

Like I said -- the beauty school. The established salons. (Who might not even really be losing business, since Braidy's neighbors can afford to pay Braidy $50 for a braid, but can't afford to pay the salon $200 for the same braid.)

It seems to me that the prime beneficiaries are those who like to keep people like Braidy as dependent on the government as possible.


Kathy said...

And don't forget that what most people learn in beauty school is how to fix white people's hair, so a woman wanting to operate legally and get a hair stylist license, would learn a whole bunch of stuff that they don't need to know, and maybe not any (or very little) of what they do need to know.

Katie said...

The stupidity makes my brain hurt.

Lauren said...

Here's a great one for you!

There's a new trend popping up called "eyebrow threading" I had it done by one of my classmates from Nepal in college. It's a skill taught by one girl to another in many asian countries, but is relatively new in America.

Well, a few enterprising young ladies decided they wanted to open up a threading kiosk in the mall. Uh oh. Can't have that...they must be overseen by someone! So the state is making them go to beauty school where they will be taught a bunch of crap that they don't need, and where they will learn absolutely nothing about eyebrow threading.

*hits head*

L. said...

The Lousiana flower thing sounds like a racket, a law passed to help some political support with a chain of flower schools or something.

I agree it's ridiculous that the beautician licensing requirement covers so many peripheral beauty services. I mean, basic hairdresser training seems like a great idea, so you don't have people burning customer's scalps with badly mixed dye, and so people know things like how to sterilize combs to prevent spreading lice or diseases. But requiring this training of people who don't provide such services -- well, that's just silly.

It's bad for the government, too. What is "Braidy" going to do? She is still going to braid whenever she can, and accept cash payments -- and not pay taxes on that cash. Hey, why should she?

Christina Dunigan said...

L, it's absolutely insane, the hurdles the government puts up that keeps people on welfare. Needing a license to braid hair. Being forbidden to "operate a business" from public housing -- which means that a simple thing like agreeing to prepare a neighbor's meals for an agreed upon fee are forbidden. If Latisha knows that Sara isn't inspected but trusts her to cook her food, why not allow a "non-licensed casual cook" form that customers can sign, stating that they know that this food was prepared by an unlicensed person and they willingly assume risk, rather than force Sara to get a caterer's license and -- more to the point -- preventing her from making money at home that she can report?

There are so many skills that people in the projects have, but if they market them they have to be sneaky about it or they'll get evicted or fined. Cooking, baking, housecleaning, babysitting, minor car repairs, selling home grown herbs and vegetables, hair styling, knitting... If they just were allowed to do it legally and openly, and report the income and not be afraid of getting in trouble, they could get off cash at least, have some independence, and get the DPW off their backs. Life would be better for them and for the taxpayers, and believe me the food stamps and medical assistance and the remaining cash recipients would keep the DPW plenty busy.

But when it comes to the government, you can't do what makes sense. You have to do what lobbyists bribe you to do.