Regulation of the Day 48: Barbers in Nevada

Want to be a barber in Nevada? You’ll need to get a license first. One of the requirements is a chest X-ray, of all things. And a blood test.

More onerous is the 18-month apprenticeship under a licensed barber, which requires its own license – plus another chest X-ray and blood test.

Occupational licensing regulations are rarely in place to benefit consumers. Their primary purpose is often to limit competition by putting up barriers to entry. Why do this? Because keeping the supply of barbers artificially low means that existing barbers can keep their prices artificially high.

Three of the four licensing board members must be licensed barbers. They write the apprenticeship rules and the license examination. They decide who gets in, and who gets left out. They have plenty of excuses built into the rules for excluding potential competitors.

Owing child support payments, for example, is by itself grounds for exclusion. What this has to do with cutting hair is beyond me. And getting a job cutting hair is one way to be able to make those payments. But there it is, encoded in state law. The board can legally keep you from being a barber if you owe child support.

A sure sign of an anti-competitive practice is using the force of law to prevent competitors from entering the marketplace. Where is the antitrust investigation into Nevada’s barber licensing?