Next week, justices at the Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over the right of eyebrow threaders to earn an honest living. Or, as the plaintiff’s attorneys at the Institute for Justice like to phrase it, “whether the state government can impose arbitrary, irrational and anti-competitive licensing requirements, which have forced many threaders out of business.”

For those who’ve never heard of eyebrow threading, the practice involves gliding a string of cotton thread across someone’s face to trap and remove unwanted hair. The procedure is safe, involves no chemicals, and, as this policy analyst can personally attest, leaves the customer with a fine looking brow for date nights.

Because it’s relatively inexpensive, threading has become rather popular, and it’s rare to find a shopping mall without at least one kiosk offering the service.

Perhaps because of its popularity, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has demanded that threaders quit their jobs until they complete one-years’ worth of coursework at a private beauty school, costing around $20,000. The department backed up its new licensing rule by handing out staggering fines to individual threaders and businesses.

As the Institute for Justice explained, the newly interpreted rule would have threaders 

“…attend a 750-hour training course on conventional cosmetology techniques like waxing and facial massage, take two tests on conventional cosmetology techniques, and pay for it all with their own money, none of which has anything to do with the honest living they seek to earn.”

Apparently, twenty plus years of experience means less than a handful of classes on hair styling, makeup, and nail care.

The controversy underscores a common problem with occupational licensing, which, in many cases, have become regulatory cesspits more worried about keeping competition out than protecting public health. That type of protectionism doesn’t jive with Texas’ reputation as a beacon for free markets and entrepreneurship.

Attorneys at the Institute for Justice were quick to point out that these arbitrary barriers only hurt hardworking Texans like their client Ash Patel who immigrated to Texas for economic opportunity.

Indeed, Patel gives his own impassioned defense on the Institute for Justice’s website.

“I grew up in India and I found it difficult to land on a good opportunity to start my own business,” said Patel. “That’s why I came to Texas. I am only asking for a fair chance to pursue my American Dream free from needless government regulation.”

Oral arguments start at 10:00 am, February 27. Patel, and his fellow Texans, will learn whether the Texas Constitution protects his ‘fair chance’ at an honest living soon after.