Carpe Diem

A Mississippi hairbraider challenges state cosmetology cartel and wins victory for economic freedom and entrepreneurship


Hairbraider Melony Armstrong just wanted to earn an honest living. Armstrong had learned how to braid hair from an renowned expert in Atlanta, and she had the drive to open her own salon in Tupelo, Mississippi. What she didn’t have was a state license to practice cosmetology. Before Armstrong could open her business, the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology required her to attend a board-approved school for a 18 months at a cost of about $10,000.

Without the money to get a license, Armstrong took her passion and channeled it into a legal challenge against the cosmetology board. Her successful struggle would permanently change the way business was done in Mississippi, removing arbitrary barriers that stood in the way of hundreds of other aspiring entrepreneurs who wanted to enter the business of braiding hair.

The documentary film, ‘Locked Out: A Mississippi Success Story’ traces every step of Armstrong’s long fight to change the law, from her humble hair salon to the statehouse. In the video above, Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie spoke with filmmaker Sean Malone and Melony Armstrong at FreedomFest in Las Vegas about how she sparked statewide reform.

The full 26-minute documentary appears below:

Important Point: Filmmaker Sean Malone points out in the video above that the membership of the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology is dominated by owners, managers or employees of the state’s cosmetology schools, creating an obvious and serious conflict of interest when the state “hair cartels” are challenged by hairbraiders.

HT: Steve Bartin

Carpe Diem

Wednesday morning linkage, Interesting fact edition

Some interesting facts……..

1. Overall, 57% of Americans think only winning players should receive trophies, while 40% say all kids on a sport team should receive a trophy according to a recent Reason-Rupe poll. By political affiliation, 66% of Republicans want only the kids who win to receive trophies, while only 48% percent of Democrats want just the winners to receive a trophy.

2. The dollar value of the oil and gas production in Texas last year ($122.5B) was about the same as the entire GDP of the state of Arkansas ($124B) and the entire GDP of the country of Hungary ($132B).

3. You can buy this 3-bedroom house in Detroit for $200, which is less than the cost of the average college textbook.

4. The average price of a house in Detroit ($28,000) is less than the average price of a new car ($32,500).

5. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland reported yesterday that its latest estimate of 10-year expected inflation is only 1.89%.

6. The Auburn-Alabama game leads college football’s most expensive tickets this year ($535), followed by Michigan-ND at $525.

7. Oil-rich North Dakota led the US with the highest state GDP growth rate in Q4 2013 of 8.4%, three times the US average for Q4 of 2.8%, according to the BEA’s report today on state GDP.

8. Natural gas production has increased tenfold in Ohio’s Utica shale play since 2012.

9. The tattoo removal business is booming as inked teens grow up.

10. Georgia County refuses to pay medical bills for the toddler who was seriously injured by a flash grenade during a May SWAT drug raid that found no drugs.

Carpe Diem

We’re better off with free trade, so why do we have tariffs?

David Friedman explains in a post titled “Why Improving Things is Hard“:

There are good economic arguments to show that we would be better off if we went to complete free trade. That seems puzzling—if we would be, why don’t we?

The answer is provided by public choice theory, the branch of economics that deals with the workings of the political market. A tariff makes the inhabitants of the country that imposes it worse off but the politicians who pass the tariff better off, since it benefits a concentrated interest group at the cost of dispersed interest groups. More concentrated interest groups are better able to pay politicians to do things for them.Trade policy is optimized, but for the wrong objective.

Carpe Diem

Monday afternoon linkage

textbooks1. Chart of the Day: Increase in college textbook prices since January 2008 (150%) compared to the overall increase in consumer prices (+47%) and the increase in the price of recreational books (almost 0%). How long can this “textbook case of price gouging” continue? Not much longer, I predict.

2. Markets in Everything: a) Pop-up chefs, b) new bio-device can 3D-print skin and fat grafts for breast cancer survivors, and c) Walmart has quietly opened a half-dozen primary care clinics across South Carolina and Texas, and plans to launch six more before January.

3. Who-d A-Thunk It? Use of force by police officers declined 60% in the first year since introducing body cameras in Rialto, CA?


4. Some Inconvenient Weather Facts: a) the frequency Of 100 Degree readings in the US is the lowest since 1906, b) Arctic Sea ice coverage is the highest since 2004 – close to 1974 levels and c) the frequency of 90 degree days in the US has been plummeting for 80 years, and is the lowest on record this summer (see chart above) d) there’s been a massive increase In Arctic Ice over the past two years and e) 90-degree days are running 40% below normal in DC this summer.

5. Quotation of the Day, on Atlantic City: “When it comes to gambling with other people’s [taxpayers'] money, politicians never know when to fold ’em.”

6. What a Wisconsin Man Did After Police Killed His SonTen years later, his efforts led to the nation’s first state law requiring outside reviews of all police-related deaths, in the same way that the  National Transportation Safety Board (and not the airlines) investigates aviation mishaps. Let’s hope this spreads to the other 49 states.

cartoon7. Cartoon of the Day.

8. Question: If driverless cars reduce highway fatalities and save lives, where will we get organs for transplants?

9. BLS Report Today: For the 67th straight month, Oil-Rich North Dakota Had Lowest State Jobless Rate in July at 2.8%

texcal10. More From Today’s BLS Report: a) Texas added more than 1,000 jobs every day over the last 12 months, a total payroll increase of 396,200 from July 2013 to July 2014, b) Texas payrolls increased in the last two months (+77,000) by more than the net increase in California payrolls since December 2007 (see chart above), and c) Texas added more than 15 workers to the state’s payrolls since December 2007 for every one worker added to payrolls in California (1,078,600 net new jobs in Texas vs. 69,400 net new jobs in California, see chart above).

Carpe Diem

Fortune 500 firms in 1955 vs. 2014; 89% are gone, and we’re all better off because of that dynamic ‘creative destruction’

What do the companies in these three groups have in common?

Group A: American Motors, Brown Shoe, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics, and National Sugar Refining.

Group B: Boeing, Campbell Soup, General Motors, Kellogg, Proctor and Gamble, Deere, IBM and Whirlpool.

Group C: Facebook, eBay, Home Depot, Microsoft, Office Depot and Target.

All of the companies in Group A were in the Fortune 500 in 1955, but not in 2014.

All of the companies in Group B were in the Fortune 500 in both 1955 and 2014.

All of the companies in Group C were in the Fortune 500 in 2014, but not 1955.

Comparing the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 to the Fortune 500 in 2014, there are only 61 companies that appear in both lists. In other words, only 12.2% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 were still on the list 59 years later in 2014, and almost 88% of the companies from 1955 have either gone bankrupt, merged, or still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies (ranked by total revenues). Most of the companies on the list in 1955 are unrecognizable, forgotten companies today (e.g. Armstrong Rubber, Cone Mills, Hines Lumber, Pacific Vegetable Oil, and Riegel Textile).

Economic Lesson: That’s a lot of churning and creative destruction, and it’s probably safe to say that almost all of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be replaced by new companies in new industries over the next 59 years, and for that we should be thankful. The constant turnover in the Fortune 500 is a positive sign of the dynamism and innovation that characterizes a vibrant consumer-oriented market economy, and that dynamic turnover is speeding up in today’s hyper-competitive global economy. Steven Denning pointed out a few years in Forbes that fifty years ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around 75 years. Today, it’s less than 15 years and declining all the time.

In the end, the creative destruction that results in a constantly changing group of Fortune 500 companies is driven by the endless pursuit of sales and profits that can only come from serving customers with low prices, high quality and great service. If we think of a company’s annual sales revenues as the number of “dollar votes” it gets every year from providing goods and services to consumers, we can then appreciate that the Fortune companies represent the 500 companies that have generated the greatest votes of confidence from us as consumers – like Walmart (#1 at $476B in “dollar votes”), ExxonMobil (#3 at $407B), Apple (#5 at $171B) and Ford (#8 at $147B).

Carpe Diem

Another ‘apostrophe abuse’ post

1. In his viral video above “Word Crimes” with almost 16 million views, “Weird Al” Yankovich reviews some basic grammar rules, including when to use the contraction “it’s” versus when to use the possessive pronoun “its.”

2. Here are some recent examples of the misuse of it’s and its’ (not even a world) instead of its collected from the comments section of CD and from various sources on the Web.

  • Kennedy’s Oldsmobile Delmont ’88 landed on it’s roof in about 6 feet of water.
  • Shale gas has it’s skeptics…
  • The OECD index uses stock market levels as an input to derive it’s levels…
  • It’s pricing should act like technology products…
  • For years we have watched it’s per pupil spending rise….
  • One party rule and its’ aftermath….

3. Cartoon: “The Curse of High Apostrophe Intelligence”


Carpe Diem

Conor Friedersdorf on the ‘libertarian moment’….

… is from Conor Friedersdorf’s excellent article in The Atlantic “Libertarians Can Be a Significant Force for Good in U.S. Politics.” Conor’s article is in response to the recent New York Time article “Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?” and the disdainful responses to that article from Paul Krugman of the Times, Jonathan Chait of New York, and David Frum — “All three concur that the notion of a libertarian ascendancy is an unsophisticated, laughable fantasy.” Here’s Conor:

Drug reform has been a core goal of libertarians for decades. The war on drugs has done as much as any policy in modern U.S. history to erode the Bill of Rights, particularly the 4th Amendment, to squander taxpayer dollars, to militarize the police, and to empower murderous cartels abroad. The reforms we’re witnessing constitute significant expansions of liberty.

Yet many who think of themselves as libertarians (or who are friendly to many but not all libertarian goals, like me) don’t particularly care who is ascendant in Washington, or what party affiliation appears beside the name of a legislator. If fewer people are caged for inhaling the smoke of a plant, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer people’s doors are kicked in late at night by police officers dressed in combat fatigues, that’s a libertarian victory. If more cancer patients can legally obtain a substance that alleviates their suffering, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer assets are seized by police without proof of guilt, that’s a libertarian victory. (Were I to embrace the rhetorical tactics of Paul Krugman, I might point to the war on drugs and ask, “Is non-libertarain domestic policy at all realistic?”)

On issues where libertarians have a somewhat realistic chance of winning over their fellow citizens—reining in the NSA, eliminating the most inane professional licensing laws, insisting on due process in the War on Terrorism, avoiding foolish wars of choice, ending the war on drugs, reducing the prison population and the militarization of the police—a “libertarian moment” would have a salutary effect on American life. Commentators like Frum, Chait, and Krugman don’t see this in large part because, if their output is indicative of their beliefs and priorities, they aren’t particularly troubled by NSA spying, or inane professional licensing laws, or civil asset forfeiture, or foolish wars of choice, or the war on drugs. For them, the path to a better America is further empowering an enlightened faction of technocrats within the political party to which they’re loyal. On particular issues, their respective prescriptions are sometimes worth trying. But I notice egregious incompetence and abuses—and lots of innocents dying needlessly—on the watches of the leaders they’ve overzealously supported. Libertarians have concrete policy proposals to protect against such ills. One needn’t embrace their entire philosophy to see the wisdom in them.

HT: Steve Horwitz