The Corner

Law & the Courts

Why One Texas Hair Braider Became a Workers’-Rights Activist

The White House workers’ summit today is focusing on declining union membership. It ignores a much larger problem facing many workers: they need a government permission slip to work. Without one they can go to jail. This happened to Isis Brantley, a Dallas hair braider.

In 1997 police arrested her for operating without a cosmetology license. Undercover officers came into Brantley’s salon and “carted [her] off to jail like a common criminal.” The mother of five went to jail for not having a license that required over 1,500 hours of training (including four exams)– none of which covered African hair braiding.

The arrest left Brantley homeless, jobless, and a passionate advocate for the rights to practice her craft.

Ten years later, the Texas legislature “fixed” the problem by creating a 35-hour hair-braiding license inserted under the barbering statute. Although free to braid hair, Brantley was still bound by burdensome barbering laws. She wanted to teach other women how to braid hair. To do that, she had to become a licensed barber instructor and create a barber college — again filled with requirements that had nothing to do with hair braiding.

Why should the government stop people who are willing and able to work? Why force them into poverty? Thankfully, Brantley’s story had a happy ending. On June 10, 2015, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed a bill fully deregulating the practice of natural hair-braiding in the state.

Brantley’s hard work and advocacy paid off. However, Brantley’s situation is not an isolated one. Nearly one-third of all jobs in the economy require some sort of license.

Many of these licenses are equally unnecessary: florists, interior designers, and barbers. Too many Americans like Brantley cannot get ahead because they lack pointless government permission slips. This is a much greater issue for most workers than organized labor’s organizing difficulties. 

Most Popular


Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More