African Hairbraiders Declare Independence From Arizona’s Cosmetology Regime

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · July 13, 2006

Glendale, Ariz.—After slaying a governmental Goliath, Essence Farmer, an entrepreneurial natural hairbraider and former Institute for Justice client, is proud to announce the official Grand Opening of Rare Essence Braiding Studio, at 5540 W. Glendale, Suite B102, in Glendale Arizona. The grand opening celebration was the perfect opportunity to see the tangible benefits of liberty.

In December 2003 Essence teamed up with the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter (IJ-AZ) and filed a lawsuit on behalf of natural hairbraiders to untangle the mess made by Arizona’s onerous cosmetology regime. The Arizona Board of Cosmetology refused to let Essence braid hair without first obtaining a license that requires 1,600 hours of training, at a cost of $10,000 or more, not one hour of which included any instruction concerning the art of natural hairbraiding. Before the lawsuit was resolved, the state Legislature stepped in and exempted braiders from the cosmetology scheme.

“July is the perfect month to celebrate freedom to pursue the American Dream,” declared Tim Keller, IJ-AZ’s executive director and the lead counsel in the case. “After all, isn’t that the essence of liberty?”

Farmer’s case had implications beyond natural hairbraiding because it tested the boundaries of government power to regulate entry into businesses and professions through occupational licensing laws. The fact that the boards enforcing the laws are typically made up of practitioners within the regulated industry only exacerbates the problem. When government unreasonably restricts individuals from working, it violates one of our most precious but oft forgotten civil rights: the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of your choice without unreasonable or irrational government interference.

“We can now celebrate natural hairbraiders’ declaration of independence from unreasonable governmental regulation,” said IJ-AZ Staff Attorney Jennifer Perkins. “But we know there are others harmed by irrational occupational licensing laws. We will not rest until we vindicate the right to economic liberty for all Arizonans.”

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