August 17, 2022

The Nerve

Where Government Gets Exposed

1,200 Hours to Be a Lawyer in S.C. … 1,500 Hours to Be a Barber?

Barber ShopAspiring South Carolina lawyers must spend 1,200 hours in the classroom; conversely, the schooling requirement to become a Palmetto State barber is 1,500 hours.

That’s no accident, according to Lee McGrath, legislative counsel with the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice. The difference in schooling required to receive law degree and a South Carolina barber’s license highlights how licensing laws kill jobs and increase costs to consumers, he said.

In reality, it’s the licensees who benefit from licensure, McGrath told The Nerve. “The rules and regulations promoted by professions such as barbering serve to weed out competition.”

While there is a second path to a barber’s license in South Carolina, it requires completing 12 months of full-time training under a licensed barber instructor in a barber shop, which averages out to more than 1,900 hours, based on a 40-hour work week.

Why should the average South Carolinian care how long it takes to get a license to cut someone’s hair? Because licensure regulations raise costs and increase unemployment, McGrath said.

“What the consumer doesn’t calculate is that licensing raises prices 15 percent,” he said. “The public sees licensing as an insurance of quality, but studies have shown that there is very little evidence that that argument holds true.”

Former S.C. Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation Director Catherine Templeton made that same argument late last year while addressing a panel of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. The panel was considering deregulating aspects of barbering, cosmetology and certain other licensed industries.

“Our experience suggests that consumers often overestimate the authority and effectiveness of professional and occupational licensure, resulting in a false sense of security,” she said.

McGrath said that government licensing efforts increase the level of unemployment from one-half to 1 percent.

Attempts Monday to reach Paul Elliott Robinson, the chairman of the S.C. Board of Barber Examiners, and Renee Patton, the vice chair, for this story were unsuccessful.

Attempts to deregulate industries such as barbering and cosmetology in South Carolina have been met with significant resistance.

The Senate panel that Templeton appeared before got an earful about the matter.

Barbers and cosmetologists were particularly animated in their opposition to lessening regulations.

Kenneth Schuler, founder and president of the Kenneth Shuler School of Cosmetology chain, told the panel that, “If you want to deregulate cosmetology, it’s going to be the biggest fight of your life.”

Also, a South Carolina barber instructor told subcommittee members that regulation was a necessity, citing a case he’d heard where someone purportedly contracted HIV after he was cut with an unclean razor while getting a shave in a barbershop.

The barber instructor said that his was second-hand information, however; and studies have shown that for such an event to take place, a razor would have to have fresh blood on it from an HIV-positive individual, and the blood would have to be in a large enough quantity to pass the HIV virus on to someone else.

But McGrath said health concerns are “always the pretext for maintaining an anti-competitive law supported by licensees.”

South Carolina’s law regulating barbers dates back to at least the 1930s. A 1940 Associated Press article stated that many barbers not only favored regulations.

Originally, the “sanitary requirements” of the law only applied to barbers who operated “within five miles of a post office,” according to the article.

“Why shouldn’t the country people be protected?” one barber asked more than 60 years ago.

Another argued that the statute should be altered to permit the state to charge out-of-state transient barbers more for licenses.

“The political challenge is significant because of the problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs,” McGrath said. “If you’re a member of the ‘guild,’ you’ve got your trade association, your lobbyists and the regulators themselves; a small group who benefit from protecting the regulations.”

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022 ext. 110, or

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The Nerve