OPINION – Braiding hair. Picking someone up at the airport. Operating a home-based business. What do these have in common?
In the eyes of the state, each of these acts could be considered a crime if official permission has not been obtained. Apparently, personal and property crimes have become so rare that law enforcement efforts are better focused on pursuing those who would work without the state’s license. No actual harm or fraud need actually have taken place.
Just last year, when Jestina Clayton of Centerville sought to braid hair as a side job, authorities insisted that she first have a state-issued cosmetology license. Obtaining that license would have required 2,000 hours of professional training that cost thousands of dollars. Clayton challenged the requirement in court and the state, in a rare display of common sense, backed down.
That wasn’t the case in Las Vegas, where 51-year-old Delinda Epstein was hit with a $3,800 fine and had her car impounded after posting an ad on Craigslist offering to do errands and chores for a negotiated fee. After picking up a client who hired her to provide a ride from the airport, Epstein was arrested and charged with “providing unlicensed transportation” in her duly registered and licensed vehicle.
Closer to home, the City of St. George was the site of a recent sting by the state Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing targeting unlicensed contractors doing handyman work. Who were the dangerous outlaws busted in this sting? Many were merely unemployed contractors responding to ads seeking workers for minor construction or repair jobs. Of course, their real crime was that they failed to secure the state’s permission first by paying the appropriate tribute via licensing fees.
St. George has long used daunting hurdles of red tape to discourage residents from operating home-based businesses. This is accomplished by deeming so-called “kitchen table” businesses such as Tupperware or Avon as having potential to create “nuisances” and requiring them to purchase a business license.
Part-time business owner Amanda Griffith said, “If you are holding (gatherings) to promote your at-home business in your own home, you are apparently breaking the law. Somehow it’s okay to go to someone else’s home to hold a party if they are your customer. But not your own home, because there you are considered a criminal as it might create a neighborhood nuisance to have people coming and going from your home.”
What is the justification for all the various licensing schemes at every level of government?
Revenue is the first and most obvious answer. If someone is making money, no matter how small the amount, it is the nature of government at every level to demand a cut of the action. Concealing this taking of money by euphemistically calling it a “fee” does nothing to lessen the fact that only our money will satisfy the state’s appetite for revenue.
The next most likely reason stems from a misguided desire to control others. Licensing substitutes the judgment of the state for the judgment of the individual.
As political philosopher Tibor R. Machan explains, “Government regulation of industry, commerce and various other professions amounts to treating people as if the government were a parent who needs to make sure that we don’t run risks. But the government is not made up of super-wise people who have the legitimate authority to guide what we do in life.”
Another predictable effect of the state’s licensing power is that it creates favored status among certain industries that use that influence to keep their competition to a minimum. This is a classic characteristic of a monopoly.
Where someone has defrauded or damaged another person or their property, the laws should hold individuals or companies accountable. But licensing schemes based upon prior restraint tend to create economic criminals where none previously existed. Those who suffer from “mommy dearest” tendencies thrive on such control. Free people and free markets do not.
The answer to this type of governmental overreach is called agorism.
Agorism could be described as the practice of reducing one’s governmental footprint. Every time you grow a garden, home-school your children, cut your kid’s hair, or engage in any other peaceable activity without first seeking government’s permission, you reclaim a portion of your freedom.
Agorism isn’t for everyone. But those who yearn to live and breathe free will find it well worth exploring.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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