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Ramesh Ponnuru

Is Your Fortune Teller Licensed?

Why do states require licenses for dog groomers and fortune tellers? Because lobbyists tell them to.
The cards say it will take 3,000 hours of study to open your own shop. Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
The cards say it will take 3,000 hours of study to open your own shop. Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Melony Armstrong wanted to be an African hair braider, practicing a skill passed down from generation to generation. In Tupelo, Mississippi, where she lived, government licensing rules meant she had to take 300 hours of course work to start her salon: 300 hours, she notes, "none of which covered hair braiding."

In testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee on Wednesday, Armstrong explained that her "ultimate goal" was to teach others how to braid. Getting the needed licenses to do that would have taken 3,200 hours. None of them taught students how to braid hair, either. That's more hours than it would have taken her to get licenses to become a firefighter, emergency medical technician, hunting instructor, ambulance driver or real estate appraiser. It's longer than it would have taken her to get licenses for all those things combined.