Walter E. Williams

In Phoenix, you could earn a living doing something as simple as shaping eyebrows, a safe and common practice known as "eyebrow threading." To do so legally, the Phoenix government requires you to take hundreds of hours of irrelevant training and spend thousands of dollars on classes. None of those classes actually teaches you how to practice eyebrow threading.

One would think that civil rights organizations, leftists and progressives would be fighting the battle for people's rights to earn a living. The fact of business is that they are often on the other side, and it's the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice that has been waging war against entrenched incumbents who use government to protect them from competition. In fact, the Institute for Justice has current court battles against restrictions on tour guides, eyebrow threading and interior designing, as well as several more found at its website ( The Institute for Justice has had remarkable success in lawsuits, breaking many economic barriers, such as those against hair braiding in Arizona, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio and California and taxi restrictions in Denver, Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Arbitrary licensing and permitting laws foreclose many occupations that are ideally suited to people of modest means, particularly minorities. Here's my bet: Ask any liberal politician, from the president and the Congressional Black Caucus to civil rights organizations and black local politicians, whether he'd take up the fight to eliminate these barriers to upward mobility. You'll get answers, but they won't be a simple yes. The reason is the ins contribute to their political campaigns and the outs don't.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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