April 13, 2007

Black-Market Barbers

So I was reading Kerry Howley's review of Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, and got to wondering: Why are there so many requirements to become a barber? In Maryland, you need "1200 hours of barber student training in a barber school or 2250 hours as a registered apprentice in a licensed barber shop, and qualify by examination given by the Board."

I mean, I understand why doctors need licenses and whatnot--because training is necessary, and the cost of letting "the market" decide which doctors were good and well-qualified would be very high (i.e., lots of deaths). I also understand why barber shops need health inspections and the like. But thousands of hours of training? People really can cut hair without going to school--especially guy's hair. My untrained roommate cut my hair for two years, and if the end results were embarrassing, no one ever said anything. And Howley's claim that loosening the licensing requirements would allow many "underground" beauticians to move into the formal economy more easily seems persuasive on its face.

Maybe there's something I'm not considering here and it really is important that every barber has 2250 hours of schooling. But what?
-- Brad Plumer 2:24 PM || ||