Liberty Commentary

Licensing Gone Wild: Armed Government Agents Raiding Barber Shops

by Bob Ewing, BigGovernment

Let’s say you have a knack for cutting hair.  If you live in Florida, guess how many hours of government-mandated instruction you’d be forced to sit through before you can become a barber?


That’s right, well over a thousand hours.  Plus, you’d have to pay thousands of dollars to cover the cost of your classes and pass a written exam.  Only then will the government give you a license—that is, permission to cut hair.

Now what happens if you’re already a successful barber but didn’t have a chance to stop working and jump through all the hoops needed to get that license?

Armed government agents could raid your business and handcuff you in front of your clients. Indeed, this is already happening.  Institute for Justice economic-liberty expert Paul Sherman explains:

According to the Orlando Sentinel:

As many as 14 armed Orange County deputies, including narcotics agents, stormed Strictly Skillz barbershop during business hours on a Saturday in August, handcuffing barbers in front of customers during a busy back-to-school weekend.

It was just one of a series of unprecedented raid-style inspections the Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently conducted with a state regulating agency, targeting several predominantly black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Pine Hills area.

In “sweeps” on Aug. 21 and Sept. 17 targeting at least nine shops, deputies arrested 37 people — the majority charged with “barbering without a license,” a misdemeanor that state records show only three other people have been jailed in Florida in the past 10 years.

The operations were conducted without warrants, under the authority of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation inspectors, who can enter salons at will. Deputies said they found evidence of illegal activity, including guns, drugs and gambling. However, records show that during the two sweeps, and a smaller one in October, just three people were charged with anything other than a licensing violation.

Barbers with years of experience and lots of satisfied customers are being subject to harassment, embarrassment, and hundreds of dollars in fines, simply because they cut hair without having gotten permission from the government.

This is not an isolated incident.

The Institute for Justice recently launched a nationwide “city studies” investigation examining barriers to entrepreneurship in eight American cities.  We found that government at every level is harassing more and more citizens and forcing ever-increasing numbers of people to get government permission just to earn a living.

We also profiled a series of entrepreneurs in a campaign called The Power of One Entrepreneur.   These reports demonstrate the amazing and positive effects that a single entrepreneur can have on their community.  And yet, government barriers around the country are kicking entrepreneurs out of work and preventing countless others from ever realizing their American Dream.

As Institute for Justice President Chip Mellor explains in the USA Today:

America was once known as the Land of Opportunity. It could be again, but not until state and local officials get out of the way of entrepreneurs trying to fulfill their dreams of new business and new prosperity for themselves and their families.

If the government is serious about creating jobs in this jobless recovery, perhaps it should put away the handcuffs and start allowing entrepreneurs to put themselves and others to work.