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If Everyone Could Trim a Beard …

A headline in our local paper screams: “Barbers, Cosmetologists in Turf War Over Shaving.” The question is where sideburns end and beards begin.
In Texas, only barbers are licensed to trim beards, and they are unhappy that cosmetologists are cutting into their market.
This fight illustrates the effects of occupational licensing — legal restrictions on workers’ ability to enter certain markets.
Barbers have benefited over the years from the exclusion of cosmetologists in what was essentially a restriction on supply. Along with the high entry costs (nearly a year of required training), this has raised the equilibrium wage of barbers — and the equilibrium price of a haircut. Licensing of medical doctors, where the consumer lacks information on quality, might be sensible. But barbers and cosmetologists?
As one party to this controversy noted, “Most of the rules are so archaic and pathetic. They’re prehistoric.” True — and it’s the consumer who suffers.