Basic to any accurate understanding of bureaucracy is this: there is no way to coordinate separate bureaucracies. So, when one bureaucracy pursues a goal, another bureaucracy threatens it.
A recent case of dueling bureaucracies was a Texas convict who was trained inside the prison to be a barber. This is one of the best jobs a convict can get in prison. It is one of the few skills that is transferable to the outside world.
The problem is, in the outside world, another group of bureaucrats control entry into professions. The barbers’ licensing bureaucracy has controlled entry for decades. Its goal is to restrict entry, to keep the supply low and wages high.
The convict was Lynn Mays. He was released in March 2010. He had received an 8-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault.
For obvious reasons, ex-cons have a hard time getting legitimate jobs after their release. This is especially true of jobs that require state licensing. Some of these bureaucracies bar ex-cons for years — up to ten years.
This of course adds to the likelihood that they will wind up in prison again.
Mays worked as a cook. This is a common ex-con career. There are no licensing requirements. Also, they are kept away from the cash register.
Mays got laid off. The restaurant closed.
He did lawn care..
A government agency paid for him to get training to become a barber. He passed a written exam. Then he applied for a license. He was turned down. Why? The official explanation: “Barbers have direct contact with members of the general public, often in settings with no one else present, and a person with a predisposition for crimes involving prohibited sexual conduct would have the opportunity to engage in further similar conduct.” The commission was not sure he had been rehabilitated.
The best sign of successful rehabilitation is a man’s willingness to get a job.
Mays appealed his case. “They paid for me to go to barber school. They bought my supplies. They paid for my test. And not only did they pay for my barber license, but also my booth permit. They gave me the gas to get here today.” This made sense. Bureaucrats do not always respond to logic.
“When I was incarcerated, I was in a correctional facility that was run by the State of Texas. Taxpayer money paid for programs that are called rehabilitation programs, therapeutic programs, that I successfully went through,” he said. “I’m here because I want to work. I’m asking for a chance to prove the system works.”
The commissioners voted 4-0 to deny Mays’ license.
And so it goes.
The losers: the victims of crime and the taxpayers who pay to run the prisons.
Other losers: people who want cheaper haircuts.