Needless regulation should be repealed


Texas has made great progress in rolling back silly regulations. But these days, even the silliest have their defenders. The left-leaning online magazine Slate is now warning that Texas is a much, much more dangerous place — if you need help taming unruly eyebrows.

"Threading eyebrows can be a dangerous business. Without proper sanitation, threading — a form of hair removal that uses thin strings to shape eyebrows — can spread highly contagious bacterial and viral infections, including flat warts, pink eye, ringworm and staph," Slate warns. "For that reason, Texas required threaders to undergo 750 hours of training in order to practice their craft professionally, the same amount of training that other cosmetology specialists must receive. But threaders didn't like all that training — so they asked the Texas Supreme Court to simply strike the regulation down."

The Court did just that in June.

For the uninformed — and those privileged few with self-governing eyebrows — threading is, in fact, a harmless, non-invasive procedure commonly conducted at malls and salons. Those terrible health risks Slate cites apply equally to any activity that involves owning a face or touching another human being.

But here is where Slate really gets it wrong: "When legislatures pass health and safety laws, they usually do so after extensive hearings and fact-findings. Members of the public and the targeted profession can petition for stricter or laxer regulations. If, in practice, the regulation is too burdensome or lenient, the state can adjust it. That is called legislating, and it is generally considered a job for the legislature."

That's not really what happens. What actually occurs is that an industry, seeking to limit newcomers and challenges to its monopoly, goes to lawmakers and demands protectionist legislation. They may cite safety concerns, sure — but those aren't the real point here. Occupational licensing is about protecting established industry, not protecting the public.

Where are the studies showing that eyebrow threading is dangerous? Where is even the anecdotal evidence? When did these "extensive hearings and fact-findings" Slate mentions take place?

They didn't. The eyebrow threading regulations were adopted at the urging of the established cosmetology industry.

In his majority opinion, Texas Chief Justice Don Willett goes even further. Such regulations are "often less about protecting the public than about bestowing special privileges on political favorites."

The Institute for Justice argued the case on behalf of eyebrow threaders.

"Today's decision is crystal clear: The government can't make you do useless things to keep your job," said lead attorney Wesley Hottot following the ruling. "The Texas Constitution protects everyone's right to pursue the occupation of their choice without unreasonable government interference. State officials can't just meddle with people's ability to go to work and support their families. Regulations must have reasons."

We'll await Slate's next defense of silly regulations, when it will no doubt defend the occupational licensing of interior designers. After all, we know how dangerous a floral-print ottoman can be in the wrong hands.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled correctly; we're not all doomed just because eyebrow threaders don't have licenses.

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