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Let’s set the background with a sampling of sentiments of yesteryear’s
Supreme Court Justices considered trash by most of today’s justices, legal
scholars, legislators and politicians in general.

Justice Joseph P. Bradley in the Slaughter-House cases (1873) said, “For
the preservation, exercise, and enjoyment of these rights the individual
citizens, as a necessity, must be left free to adopt such a calling,
profession, or trade as may seem to him most conducive to that end. … The
right to choose one’s calling is an essential part of that liberty which is
the object of government to protect; and a calling, when chosen, is a man’s
property and right. Liberty and property are not protected where these
rights are arbitrarily assailed.”

Justice Rufus W. Peckman in Dent v. West Virginia (1888) said, “The
liberty mentioned in that Amendment (Fourteenth) means … to earn his
livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or avocation.”

Justice William O. Douglas in Barsky v. Board of Regents of New York
(1954) said, “The right to work, I had assumed, was the most precious
liberty that man possesses. Man has indeed as much right to work as he has
to live, to be free, to own property. … The great values of freedom are in
the opportunities afforded man to press to new horizons, to pit his strength
against the forces of nature, to match skills with his fellow man.”

Contrast these sentiments to today’s reality. In Las Vegas, John West
applied for a license to operate his limousine. After having spent $15,000
and failing to prove that his business would “not unreasonably and adversely
affect other carriers,” his application was turned down. Nevada’s
established limousine operators get politicians to keep new entrants out so
they can get away with charging higher prices.

In New York, there’s been a running battle between “dollar” commuter vans
and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Dollar vans emerged in 1980
during the city’s transit strike. They operate along fixed routes providing
badly needed services in Brooklyn and Queens. But they compete with the
city’s decrepit bus service. The riding public wants the vans but the Taxi
Cab and Limousine Commission, acting on the behalf of New York’s Transit
Authority and transit workers union, wants them out of business.

Then there are African style hair braiders who operate out of their homes
and small shops in predominantly black neighborhoods. Given the style’s
popularity, hair braiders can earn a good income. However, the cosmetology
establishment wants them to complete 1,600 hours of study at state-certified
schools at a cost of $5,000 to $7,000. Licensed cosmetologists fear loss of
business and cosmetology schools fear the loss of students. They both use
government to stifle competition with hair braiders.

Many of these fledgling entrepreneurs are black people who are trying to
move up the economic ladder. The good news is that the state-sponsored siege
against them is being broken. It’s not black politicians and civil rights
groups coming to the rescue. They tend to side with the establishment.
Instead, it’s the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice. The
Institute has produced an excellent record of success. In New York, they’ve
sued successfully on the behalf of the dollar vans. In cities such as Denver
and Indianapolis, they’ve broken long-standing taxi monopolies. Just last
week, the Institute won their California challenge where a U.S. District
Court found the state’s enforcement action against hair braiders
unconstitutional. Similar successes have also been won in Washington, D.C.,
Michigan and Maryland.

It would be great if the Institute for Justice ultimately beats back
protectionist economic regulation. But in the meanwhile, we should all give
moral encouragement to any person who tries to earn an honest, albeit
illegal, living.

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