If you are reading this guide, you are likely one of these small business owners working hard toward achieving your American Dream, while also making valuable contributions to the economy, your community and society.
And sadly, if you are reading this guide, you are likely also facing government regulations that make it difficult, if not impossible, to earn an honest living in the occupation of your choosing.
Maybe the government has enacted laws that require you to pass unnecessary, expensive exams or jump hurdles that you simply don’t have the resources to jump to operate your business. Maybe there are restrictions on how, when and where you may operate your business that are based on the location or existence of your competitors. Or maybe the government has placed restrictions on your ability to honestly advertise what your business does.
If so, your situation is not unique, and you are not alone—and this guide is for you.
Sometimes, groups of established businesses engage in “protectionism.” They organize and lobby their elected officials to pass regulations that protect themselves from the competition of newer, less politically connected businesses. Other times, the government may pass senseless laws with no legitimate purpose that end up hurting your business.
But you have the right to earn an honest living, free from arbitrary, burdensome and protectionist regulation. We call this “economic liberty.” This civil right is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Do not let the government tell you otherwise. Laws that strip you of your economic liberty are unconstitutional, immoral and wrong.
You can fight back against these regulations, and you can win.
Our goal with this guide is to give you the strategies you need to organize, change the law and, most importantly, get back to work.
We have worked with entrepreneurs nationwide to fight back against these types of laws, in the courts of law and public opinion—and we are eager to work with you. Here are a few examples of entrepreneurs we’ve worked with; see if you recognize any similarities with your fight:
Street vending is, and always has been, a part of the American economy and a fixture of urban life. Thanks to low start-up costs, the trade has offered countless entrepreneurs—particularly immigrants and others with little income or capital—opportunities for self-sufficiency and upward mobility. Vendors also enrich their communities by providing access to a wide variety of often low-cost goods and by helping to keep streets safe and vibrant.
But, in some cities, groups of powerful brick-and-mortar businesses lobby their elected officials to pass laws that make it nearly impossible for vendors to operate, in order to protect their establishments from competition. For example, some cities have “proximity restrictions,” which prohibit food trucks from setting up shop within a certain distance of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Other cities ban vendors from certain high-traffic areas (or from the entire city).
The art of “traditional” or “natural” hairbraiding traces back thousands of years to Africa. Today, practitioners across the country engage in the intricate crafts of twisting, braiding, weaving and locking natural styles, mostly for African-American clients. These distinct techniques are generally grouped together under the rubric of “natural hair care” because they do not use any chemicals, heat or other artificial hairstyling techniques. Nationwide, natural hair care has grown into a multi-million dollar industry.
This has upset the cosmetologists in some states, who do not like that someone can go to a hairbraider to receive her services more cheaply than if she went to a traditional salon. Some in the cosmetology industry have lobbied their state legislatures to require braiders to spend thousands of dollars on thousands of hours of cosmetology training—not one hour of which actually teaches how to braid hair. These arbitrary and excessive regulations on such a safe and uncomplicated practice as hairbraiding often have two intentions: first, they seek to create a market for cosmetology schools by forcing braiders to attend, even though the classes are burdensome and irrelevant. Second, these laws protect mainstream cosmetologists from the competition of hairbraiders, by making it nearly impossible for braiders to obtain the licenses needed to work legally.
The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is a professional and lobbying organization that tries to make it difficult for new interior designers to enter the profession in order to protect ASID’s dues-paying members from competition and keep prices high. ASID lobbies for “titling” laws and “practice acts,” which require new interior designers to undergo ridiculous, lengthy and often cost-prohibitive training and exams in order to advertise as an interior designer or practice the profession at all.
ASID wants to create an interior design cartel. Titling laws, which restrict use of the terms “interior design” and “interior designer” (but not the actual practice of interior design), ensure that anyone looking for an “interior designer” on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages will only find those who are government-certified cartel members, while overlooking scores of other capable designers. Practice acts are even worse because they require a license to perform interior design services, which effectively limits the field to people who have passed the totally unnecessary education, exam and apprenticeship requirements that ASID lobbied for. (How do we know these things are totally unnecessary? Because most state-licensed interior designers were grandfathered in and possess few if any of these credentials themselves.)
The results of all of these regulations are higher prices for consumers, lower quality services, less variety and fewer employment opportunities, especially for minorities, older mid-career switchers and those on the first rung of the economic ladder.