Libertarian Centralizers Endanger Liberty with Governopoly

The libertarian centralizers are at it again, federalizing an issue that should remain a local concern.

This time, it revolves around hair washing.

Yes, some liberty-minded folks among us want to federalize shampooing hair.

The Tennessee state cosmetology board maintains ridiculous occupational licensing rules for people who want to earn a living washing hair in professional salons. To legally lather up your neighbors head in the Volunteer State, you must spend thousands of dollars to complete hundreds of hours of training. Reason Magazine recently reported on the onerous state regulations.

At present, obtaining a government permission to shampoo hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training ‘on the theory and practice of shampooing,’ at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition.”

As it turns out, the law creates another little hitch. Nobody in Tennessee offers simple shampoo-tech classes. In order to legally wash hair at your local Nashville salon, you will have to go through the even more rigorous and expensive process of obtaining a cosmetology license. That requires 1,500 hours of training at an expensive cosmetology school.

Of course, our ambitious hair washer could just do it on the down-low. But shampooing without a license (I feel like I’m writing an Onion article here) can land a person in jail for up to six months, along with a $500 criminal fine or a $1,000 civil penalty.

Absurd. Unfair. Ridiculous.

Undoubtedly, licensed cosmetologists support this scheme and probably lobbied for the laws. Statutes like this don’t “protect” anybody, but they do throw up high barriers of entry, keep people out of the business and limit competition.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee wants to do something about all this. The libertarian organization filed suit against the state cosmetology board on behalf of Tammy Pritchard.

Tammy is the plaintiff in our case. She is a police officer who wants nothing more than the ability to wash hair at her friend’s salon in her spare time to earn extra money. Her great niece, Leanna, is in high school and would also like the opportunity to wash hair after school for extra money. Due to Tennessee’s licensing law, neither Tammy nor Leanna have the ability to undertake this simple task in order to improve their economic state or that of their families.”

The Beacon Center bases two of its legal arguments on the Tennessee state constitution, arguing the cosmetology licensing laws violate Article I, Section 8.

The right to engage in a chosen profession is a liberty and property interest protected by our state constitution.”

The Beacon Center also asserts the licensing scheme runs afoul of state constitutional provisions prohibiting monopoly.

Up to this point, I’m totally on board with the suit.

Under the U.S. Constitution, hair washing regulations clearly fall within the powers remaining to the states and the people. I don’t think many would disagree that the shampoo law is a ridiculous exercise of government power. But under the American system, the political society that is Tennessee has every right to enforce such silliness. If the people of Tennessee don’t like it, they need to work within their political system and repeal the laws.

But the Beacon Center runs completely off the rails because despite finding very strong legal arguments against the cosmetology board within state law under the state constitution, it wants to make it a federal case.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees this basic principle of fairness. Tennessee’s shampoo licensure scheme fails even this forgiving test enunciated in the federal constitution… Finally, the Fourteenth Amendment protects the privileges and immunities of citizens, the right to due process under law, and the right to equal protection under the law. The Board’s actions have irrationally, arbitrarily, and excessively restricted the ability of our clients to engage in a legitimate vocation.”

In other words, according to these libertarian centralizers, the 14th Amendment empowers the federal government to regulate shampooing in Tennessee.

Look, I understand the impulse here. A wrong needs to be made right. We have this power source in Washington D.C. we can tap into in order to force stupid Tennessee to respect liberty. But the Beacon Center and libertarian centralizers everywhere fall into a trap. They destroy the basic constitutional structure in their quest for liberty.

During the Philadelphia Convention, James Madison floated the idea of giving the federal government veto power over all state laws. That idea was soundly rejected. When Madison first proposed the Bill of Rights to Congress, several of the protections would have applied to the states as well as the federal government. That was also soundly rejected. The founding generation recognized a basic principle. Centralizing power was a greater threat to liberty than allowing states to maintain their own sovereignty in a decentralized system.

Today, lawyers, judges and politicians have bastardized the 14th Amendment to create a system of government that would have appalled the founding generation. (It was never meant to “guarantee basic principle of fairness.”)  Politicians, and politically connected lawyers in Washington D.C. micromanage nearly every aspect of our lives from our health care, to our marriages, to what kind of light bulb we screw into our lamps. Now we are apparently going to give the feds authority to help regulate hair washing in Tennessee. Sadly, these libertarian centralizers want to further empower Washington D.C. in the vain hope it will sprinkle some scraps of liberty on their heads.

Governopoly will never win you freedom.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t lament constitutional overreach when it doesn’t conform to your policy preferences and then beg for constitutional overreach when you want to wash hair.

The American constitutional system created a decentralized system that dispersed power across a large number of institutions. Over the last 100 years, Americans have destroyed that system, centralizing more and more power in the general government. Restoring liberty depends on moving back toward a decentralized system. These libertarian centralizers continue to undermine that effort by turning to the federal government to “enforce” liberty on the states. They may win some short-term victories, but they need to look at the big picture. Their victories further empower the behemoth, and it will eventually eat them alive. But when it comes for them, they have no defense, because they have destroyed the only entities that can practically check federal power – the states.

During the Massachusetts ratifying convention, Fischer Aims emphasized the importance of maintaining the integrity of the states.

A consolidation of the States would subvert the new Constitution, and against which this article [the Tenth Amendment] is our best security. Too much provision cannot be made against consolidation. The State Governments represent the wishes and feelings, and the local interests of the people. They are the safeguard and ornament of the Constitution; they will protect the period of our liberties; they will afford a shelter against the abuse of power, and will be the natural avengers of our violated rights.” [Emphasis added}

Liberty-minded Americans need to deal with state violations of their rights at the state level and stop making everything into a federal case. I understand the temptation. People feel they can’t control their states, so they need to bring in the big guns to handle  the problem. But as I said in a recent article I wrote for the Tenth Amendment Center on attempts to apply the Second Amendment to the states, that mentality raises an important question. If you can’t control the political process in your own state and ensure that it protects your rights, what in the world makes you think you can control a bigger, more powerful, more intrusive, less responsive federal government?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe understood that governopoly (monopoly government) posed the gravest threat to liberty.

Because a monopoly of protection is the root of all evil, any territorial expansion of such a monopoly is per se evil too. Every political centralization must be on principle grounds rejected. In turn, every attempt at political decentralization…must be supported.”

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