Even ‘Dreamers’ can enjoy state’s hyper-regulatory climate


I enjoy my regular coiffure-adjustment sessions because they give me a glimpse of something I seldom get to see — the back of my head, when the barber sticks the small mirror in front of my face so I can see into the giant mirror behind me.

He always asks a variation of the same question, which tickles me no end: “So, what do you think?” What am I supposed to say to that? “It looks awful, too short, put some of it back”?

The secret of men’s haircuts is that no matter how awful they are, in a couple of months the hair will grow back, and all the evidence of a crime will be gone.

Of course, the delicate souls among us can feel tormented and crushed as their cruel and insensitive co-workers heap bad-haircut scorn on them day after day. Oh, the heartache.

Thank goodness the state is there to protect them.

Not just any clown can come in off the street and start snipping hair in Indiana. To become “professional” — i.e., legal — barbers in this state, applicants must complete 1,500 hours of instruction, get at least 75 percent on the final exam (but they get three chances) and pay a $40 license application fee.

Your mother who put the bowl on your head just to give you a quick trim? A desperado. A renegade.

And even if you are a certified barber in another state, you can’t just start up here without getting a “license by reciprocity” permit. Even out-of-state gun permit holders have an easier time being legal in Indiana. (Unless you’re from Vermont, which is probably a lousy place to get a haircut, too).

Hoosiers should be heartened to know they are protected by the state not just when they enter the barbershop. It’s no surprise that Indiana keeps a tight rein on the professionals whose incompetence could wreak true havoc in our lives — the doctors, lawyers, teachers and so on. But that’s just the beginning.

Indiana also requires professional licenses for 70 different occupations, covering one in seven Hoosier workers, including the manicurist who buffs your nails, the real-estate agent who sells you a house, the bartender who draws your beer, the athletic trainer who demands “just two more” of you, the auctioneer who tricks you into paying more than you should, the plumber who tries to confiscate your Drano and the interior designer who scoffs at your feng shui ignorance.

We know this because the General Assembly has passed and the governor has signed legislation permitting Dreamers to again qualify for the state permits despite the actions of heartless bureaucrats in the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, who were stupidly trying to comply with the dictates of a 2011 state immigration law. “Dreamers” is the obligatory term for those illegal immigrants covered by President Obama’s executively ordered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And “deferred,” you should know, means “temporary until we’re all browbeaten into accepting it as legal.”

Is this a great state or what? People who are here illegally have the same rights as native-born Hoosiers to unreasonable state-mandated barriers to gainful employment and to foist upon beleaguered customers the higher costs resulting from overregulation. Talk about equal opportunity.

And make no mistake, that is exactly what an overzealous approach to regulation represents. According to a recently updated 2012 report by the Institute for Justice, licensing laws may cost the American economy as many as 2.85 million jobs, and consumers may pay an additional $203 billion nationwide each year. Furthermore, the costs of licensing come with little “to improve quality or protect consumers.”

Indiana has made a few feeble attempts over the years to cut back on the regulatory burden. But the efforts have fallen apart, largely due to strong opposition from those already in the regulated professions.

And why not? Thanks to the state’s protection, they can tightly control their membership and charge higher prices without fear of competition.

Imagine that. Protecting the favored employees by keeping the riffraff out. Think the Dreamers appreciate the irony?

Leo Morris is a columnist for The Indiana Policy Review and opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Contact him at [email protected].

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