The Crime Of Giving Free Haircuts To The Homeless
A haircut is one of those little things in life that can make a big difference in how you feel -- make you feel like a brand new you.
A wonderful guy in Tucson, Arizona, cosmetology student Juan Carlos Montesdeoca, decided to give free haircuts to the homeless. "A basic trim," as he described the cut he gave two of the ladies who came to him.
Kristin Haubrich writes at TucsonNewsNow:
Montesdeoca thought he was doing a good deed for Tucson by offering the haircuts, a service many homeless hadn't received in a long time.
"About seven months was the longest one, another lady was about two years without a basic trim."
He too has been homeless in the past.
When his Regency Beauty school closed its doors last September, he felt compelled to offer his services for free.
But now, the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology is investigating a complaint against him for practicing without a license.
The other charge is for giving haircuts in a place that is not a licensed salon.
Let's be honest: I can cut your hair, and I've never had a day's training.
I will not accidentally cut off your head. I might not be the greatest hair artist you've ever seen, but giving someone a haircut is not like giving someone a new liver.
(That job we kind of want you to be licensed for.)
As Institute for Justice has pointed out about licensing laws, this is all about crony capitalism: Keeping down the competition and enriching owners of the schools that give lessons necessary for licensing.
And as Jared Meyer notes in the SF Examiner, the best anti-poverty program is lowering the barriers to work:
Occupational licensing, the requirement that people gain government's permission to work, limits economic opportunity by making it harder for people to earn a living. These government-imposed requirements to work extend far beyond the professional fields of medicine, law, and accounting -- high-paying fields for which the need for a license is commonly accepted.
...Licensing poses real-world problems. Though 40 other states do not license residential painters, Arizona requires these workers to pay $870 to work in the state. Some retired painters who move to the state and want to continue practicing their craft part-time cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars to do so.
Furthermore, aspiring Arizona manicurists and makeup artists must pay an extra $247 to put their skills to use, even after completing months of required education and training. Other low-income occupations licensed by Arizona include alarm installers, funeral attendants, door repairmen, barbers and floor sanders.
For some people, a few hundred dollars may not serve as a disincentive or roadblock to work. But for those struggling to lift themselves out of poverty, every added cost makes a difference. Even fiscal conservatives who may worry about lower government revenues from fees must understand that there are much less harmful ways to raise funds than by charging low-income workers for a government-granted privilege to work.
Oh, and yes, in Montesdeoca's case, it really is a crime. Michael Haugen writes at Right On Crime:
Violation of this section constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor--the most serious non-felony offense in the state--which is punishable by up to six months in jail, 3 years of probation, and/or a $2,500 fine, usually depending on whether an individual has an existing criminal record. Put another way, performing a 15-minute haircut for an individual who may otherwise not have means to get one can be criminally punished at the same level as DUI, driving under a suspended license, or assault.
...In the case of Montesdeoca, he wasn't even seeking remuneration for his haircuts. Instead, he's simply providing a voluntary service to someone else who's accepted it voluntarily--and who likely appreciates being able to save a ten-spot on a haircut that can instead be used to feed themselves. Arizona has rendered such arrangements not only under the jurisdiction of bureaucratic government, but deemed such unlicensed voluntarism as a criminal offense worthy of a potential trip to jail for six months. In light of such a potential penalty, it's difficult to swallow claims by some that overcriminalization isn't an issue that merits serious correction.