“Hair Care Reform” via SWAT Teams in Florida

If you think California is the only state with irrational and fascist-like policies coming from the government, then shift your gaze towards Florida.

Mark Steyn [steynonline.com 9/18/14], as well as OrlandoSentinel.com 9/17/14, recently reported on a Florida case, from 2010, that finally made its way into the  U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On August 19, 2010, two inspectors from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) visited the Strictly Skillz Barbershop in Orlando and found everything in order: All of the barbers working there were properly licensed, and all of the work stations complied with state regulations. Two days later, even though no violations had been discovered and even though the DBPR is authorized to conduct such inspections only once every two years, the inspectors called again, this time accompanied by “between eight and ten officers, including narcotics agents,” who “rushed into” the barbershop “like [a] SWAT team.” Some of them wore masks and bulletproof vests and had their guns drawn. Meanwhile, police cars blocked off the parking lot.

The officers ordered all the customers to leave, announcing that the shop was “closed down indefinitely.” They handcuffed the owner, Brian Berry, and two barbers who rented chairs from him, then proceeded to search the work stations and a storage room. They demanded the barbers’ driver’s licenses and checked for outstanding warrants. One of the inspectors, Amanda Fields, asked for the same paperwork she had seen two days earlier, going through the motions of verifying (again) that the barbers were not cutting hair without a license (a second-degree misdemeanor). Finding no regulatory violations or contraband, the officers released Berry and the others after about an hour.

It took less than this to incite the American Revolution.

Where is the anger, not just in Florida, but everywhere? Why didn’t the people of Florida, back in 2010, rise up to overturn every elected official in that state and shut down that government agency altogether, at a minimum? We had Occupy Wall Street back then. Why not Occupy Orlando, demanding that the state government get its hands (and special forces) off the private businesses of hair care?

Don’t people understand principle anymore? It’s not just about petty incompetents on a power trip in the Florida state government. It’s not just about hair stylists, either. It’s about individual rights and private property. If government can overreact — and arbitrarily overreact, at that — then no one is truly safe, not for long. Especially when nobody speaks out against it.

Events like this have led me to conclude that our society is truly sick.

When diagnosing a mentally sick individual, a (good) psychologist or therapist tries to find out what erroneous assumptions, ideas or premises are contributing to the patient’s unhappy and unhealthy mental state. For example, a false belief that, “I’m not a good person unless I sacrifice myself for everyone” will lead to emotions of depression, resentment, and despair, especially if left unidentified and unchecked over time.

It’s the same with a society. Instead of looking at an individual, we’re examining the widespread and dominant ideas of a culture. These are the ideas that most of the people hold, at least to a significant extent. Consequently, they elect fascists to terrorize the citizens through state and local governments, just like you see in this Florida example (and the California winery example I provided in yesterday’s column.)

What sick ideas could lead not just to the actions of this tyrannical Amanda Fields, but to the lack of emotional response in citizens, some of whom might even approve of her actions?

One false belief: “We must have others take care of us. Otherwise, we’re not safe with anyone. The world is a treacherous place and everyone is out to get us.”

Granted, it’s tempting to call this a true belief when you look at the actions of the Florida state government, handcuffing hair stylists in the name of some warped sense of justice fueled by a power trip.

But if it’s really true that everyone is out to get us, so much so that we have to send narcotics agents and SWAT teams against people who cut hair while they prove (twice) they have the necessary state-approved paperwork, then how on earth are we to entrust such power to people like Amanda Fields and others in the government with the same attitude? What makes these government bureaucrats so morally and intellectually superior and the rest of us so dull, helpless and corrupt?

It’s all backwards. It’s a complete moral and psychological inversion, and makes no sense at all.

By what breathtakingly naive assumption can we assume that people in government are to be trusted, while everyone else in every field imaginable — wine production, hair styling, contracting, plumbing, architecture, medicine — is guilty unless proven innocent; and perhaps, even then, still guilty?

No healthy, rational or intelligent mindset could allow people to tolerate these kinds of actions from their state, local and federal governments. These things go on every day. Most of us are aware of this fact; yet most of us would never complain about it. Why? Because, well, someone has to protect us from all the fraud and deceit out there.

The unchecked assumption here: If little state Nazis like Amanda Fields are all that stand between us and a world dominated by economic predators — then we’re already doomed.

The reality is that most people are trustworthy. This is because, especially in a free society and free market where nothing is given out by the authorities for free, it’s in people’s rational self-interest to be honest. Honesty and integrity are good for business. Honesty has survival value.

I’m not suggesting we don’t need any government to apprehend and prosecute the occasional people who will be found — after due process of law — to have possibly or actually committed a crime; but we don’t need to send in the troops at the first sign of suspicion, or perhaps even no sign of suspicion, if that’s what’s required to give these little Napoleons a sense of power and the budgets that pay them some rationale for continuing to be funded.

The other unchecked assumption enabling people to tolerate or even endorse this growth of fascism across the country: A false belief that they’re not able to judge questionable or fraudulant behavior for themselves. Quite simply, people don’t know how to judge or exercise common sense any longer. They have no trust in the power of reason, that method of knowing — the only method of knowing — that enables us to be reasonably sure if not absolutely certain about particular events in daily life.

If you view what’s happening in our society as a form of emotional sickness, you can easily see how one follows from the other. As more and more people are afraid or unsure to judge — even rationally judge, about everyday matters — this gives the green light to government dictators to step in and take whatever steps they wish to rationalize doing what people could — far more effectively, even without SWAT teams — be doing for themselves.

He who refuses to judge — objectively — for himself ends up delivering himself to the little Hitlers who populate these state, federal and county agencies we fund and require to take care of us.

Don’t shake your head at all this idiocy and conclude, “There’s nothing we can do.” When we choose not to regulate ourselves via reason, we end up being regulated the way most other nations throughout the world, and throughout human history, have done it: by dictatorship.

People who are confident in their own ability and willingness to use rational, self-responsible judgments about things like haircuts, will be disgusted by a government who seeks to take this over for them, especially in such a ludicrous and unjust way.

If we have actually reached a point where SWAT teams are required to regulate our barbers, then America is truly over.


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