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Without Government, Who Would Force a Men's Barbershop to Cut Women's Hair?

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09/09/2015

A barbershop that is set up specifically to serve men, must now pay $750 dollars after a Pennsylvania state investigation into "discriminatory" practices on the part of the barbershop owners. The owner, John Interval, was fined $750 after he declined to cut a woman's hair. According to Interval: 'I didn’t really consider it so much a discrimination thing as – it’s a barbershop… for guys,' Interval said."

The potential customer, who was forced to endure the hardship of finding an establishment that cuts women's hair, filed a complaint with the state, and following a taxpayer-funded investigation and interview period with the barbershop owners, the state levied a fine against the shop. The shop will pay the fine, of course, because to refuse to pay would likely bring armed government agents to the establishment to serve further warrants and additional methods of state coercion including fines, lawsuits, and possible imprisonment and/or impoverishment for the owner.

An alternative to this, of course, would be to allow shop owners to dispose of their own private property as they see fit. In the United States however, a business agreement (i.e., a verbal or written contract) does not require the consent of both parties. Instead, state and federal governments employ armies of government agents to force private individuals to enter into contracts where only one party has consented to participate.  Thus, in this manner, the government carries out its essential role in mandating hair cuts (or cake baking, or wedding photography) under threat of fines and other penalties.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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