Monday, January 17

Hairdressing is also way too socialist

I thought Vancouver's taxi industry is way too socialist. But I found another example that might top it.

In the Outaouais region (the Quebec portion of Greater Ottawa), central planners have been controlling hair cuts: who you can get them from, the minimum price hairdressers can charge, and what hours they can work. According to an article in Le Droit, it's a depression-era practice that was repealed decades ago everywhere else in Quebec, but for some reason still exists in the Outaouais area.

This law is stupid. It's not good for customers. Licences might make sense — one would want their hairdresser to practice proper hygiene — but there is nothing stopping an electrician from getting a hairdressing licence, the bureaucrat in charge of the hairdressing rules notes. And why outlaw haircuts before 8:30 in the morning or on Sundays? Some people working long hours might want to grab a haircut before they head to work (which would explain why the barber shop near my office tower opens at 7).

Hugo Parisien, in charge of the Outaouais rules, claims the rules are good for hairdressers. Minimum prices prevent large hair salons from beating up on the little guy, he argues, giving the example of a $3 haircut promotion. But you don't need a hairdressing law for that — federal competition laws dealing with predatory pricing already prevent this scenario.

More importantly, however, the Outaouais region does not exist in a bubble. Hairdressers there are, to some extent, competing with stylists in the city of Ottawa. Rather than level the playing field among all hairdressers, the Outaouais law allows Ottawa salons to get a leg up on hairdressers on the Quebec side by offering more flexible hours, lower prices and service on Sundays. I can't see how the lost business from the Outaouais restrictions can be good for hairdressers.

Government should get out of the hairdressing and taxi business. They are not the experts on the subject — the businesspeople are.