Governors are grabbing business licenses to punish lockdown violations

Democrat politicians intent upon perpetuating the Wuhan virus lockdown — even as more data show that the lockdown is pointless — have resorted to snatching business licenses when the owners refuse to allow their primary asset to wither away because of a useless edict.  Revoking permits without due process is a powerful weapon that instantly destroys businesses because it makes the owners criminals if they continue to operate.

In Michigan, power-mad governor Gretchen Whitmer seized 77-year-old Karl Manke's business license when he refused to starve.  He has announced that he will keep cutting hair, even without a license:

A Michigan barber intends to continue defying the state's lockdown order and giving haircuts despite officials revoking his professional license.

Karl Manke, a 77-year-old barber in Owosso, returned to work on May 4 after the state government forced him to close his shop on March 21. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended the state shutdown order through May 28, but Manke has refused close his business again despite citations from the police and the threat of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine for violating the emergency order.

"I'm not closing up; I'm not caving in to this," Manke told The New York Times on Wednesday after the state voided his professional license to be a barber. "I'm not a rabble-rouser and I'm not a scofflaw. I'm a small-town barber. I just want to make my living."

Likewise, in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis seized the license from a restaurant that had the temerity to open on Mother's Day, one of the big business days for restaurants across America.

Keep in mind as you think about governors depriving people of their livelihoods without due process that there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes this hurdle to earning a livelihood.  While you'll be told that licenses exist to protect the consumer, that's rarely the case.  The protection standard is relevant only when the consumer cannot understand whether someone is doing a good or, more importantly, a safe job.

For example, consumers will be hard pressed to know whether a structural engineer or a brain surgeon has the necessary skill for the work at hand.  A license gives some assurance that the person has at least the required minimum skills to do the job.  The same is true for specific permit processes.  It makes sense to have a structural engineer check whether your contractor properly installed the supporting beam in your home because you have no idea whether he did, and the consequences for doing it wrong can be drastic and deadly.

Those are the exceptions, though.  In most cases, licenses exist for two reasons only: to raise money for the government and to squeeze out competition.  Established professionals long ago realized that they can lower competition (and increase profit) if they convince the government (i.e., make substantial contributions to a politician) to mandate a license as a prerequisite for doing the work they do. 

Take, for example, black women braiding hair in Louisiana.  It's a skill, but not one that implicates consumer health or safety.  Nevertheless, those hair-braiding women need a time-consuming, expensive license if they want to earn a living:

Lynn Schofield first learned to braid hair as a child in Ivory Coast, where she watched her mother's hands weave her sisters' dark, wiry hair.

She turned a family tradition into a trade, and decades after immigrating to the United States as a 16-year-old, she opened the first of four African hair braiding salons in the New Orleans area in 2000. 

But three years later, the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology implemented a rule requiring those who practice African or natural hair braiding to obtain an "alternative hair design permit." 

The license requires at least 500 hours of training at a cosmetology school, which can cost between $10,000 and $20,000. With many young braiders unable to afford classes, Schofield found herself unable to retain the staff she trained and struggled to find licensed replacements. She closed three shops and entrusted the fourth to her niece,Ashley-Roxanne N'Dakpri, who also made a living braiding hair after moving to the U.S. 

Now Schofield works in real estate. Despite decades of experience, it's still illegal for her to braid hair for profit in Louisiana without a license.   

In too many instances, licensing requirements are a costly scam that empowers government and stifles competition.  That tyrannical governors are using revoking licenses without due process as a way to punish people who try to earn a living in the face of increasingly arbitrary lockdown rules is a reminder that, if America wants to get back on its feet economically, a lot of these licenses need to go.

And when it comes to businesses who want to prove to consumers that they're qualified for the job, they can voluntarily get certifications from professional organizations that will prove they meet the highest industry standards.  That certificate is good advertising without squashing market dynamics.