South Dakota Governor Cuts Hairy Occupational Licensing Restrictions

Published March 7, 2017

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) is cutting back some of the state’s occupational licensing requirements, exempting hair braiders from government rules intended for traditional hair stylists.

Currently, South Dakota hair braiders are required to take 2,100 hours of government-approved cosmetology classes, apply for and pass skills tests, and purchase annual licenses.

Daugaard signed House Bill 1048 into law in February.

Starting in July, hair braiders will be exempt from licensing regulations and from oversight by the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission, a division of the state’s Department of Labor & Regulation.

Trimming Back Regulations

Ron Williamson, president of Great Plains Public Policy Institute, says the new law is an example of lawmakers fixing broken government policies.

“The exemption from state regulations is an example of how the system should work when business regulations overreach and are unnecessary,” Williamson said. “The legislative effort was citizen-led, by the parents of African-American and minority children. The parents pointed out to the legislature that, especially in South Dakota, there are a limited number of natural hair stylists and it is necessary for people to drive long distances to have their hair braided.”

More Occupational Licensing Reforms?

Daugaard’s approval of HB 1048 may be one of many upcoming pro-consumer wins for people in South Dakota, Williamson says.

“This was a specific issue that needed a commonsense solution and may well serve as a stepping stone for a decrease in government-administered state regulation,” Williamson said.

Shopping for Stylists

Simple market forces are better at weeding out poor service providers than government commissions and regulations, says Daniel Klein, an economics professor at George Mason University.

“If the person promising quality cannot ensure his trustworthiness, then the consumer can simply look for another who better provides assurance of trustworthiness,” Klein said. “Thus, there is a demand not only for hairdos but for associated assurances of quality. There are many, many ways in which assurance is supplied throughout affairs both economic and social.”

The Invisible Hand’s Hairdo

Klein says the great Scottish economist Adam Smith would have opposed burdensome occupational licensing regulations.

“Adam Smith said that such laws, which ‘sacrifice the ordinary laws of justice,’ ought to be enacted ‘only in the cases of the most urgent necessity,'” Klein said. “I don’t think he’d consider the risk of a bad hairdo an urgent necessity and a reason to sacrifice the ordinary laws of justice.”