Protection Racket: Occupational licensing laws and the right to earn a living


By Mark Flatten | Goldwater Institute

Debra Nutall lived the American dream, until the state of Tennessee took it away. She started with nothing. Nutall was a single mother struggling to raise three children in a Memphis public housing project. She worked as a nursing assistant. But the job didn’t pay much, and she survived on welfare and other public assistance.

It seemed there was little hope of getting out of the extreme poverty that surrounded her. Still, she was determined to build a better life, for her children and for herself.

“I did not want to raise my kids in public housing, but I didn’t have a choice,” Nutall said in a recent interview with the Goldwater Institute. “So I found a way to escape.”

That way was braiding hair.

Nutall learned the skill of intricately twisting and locking down hair as a little girl, just as her mother and grandmother had done.

It was part of her history, her African American culture. The long braiding sessions on her front porch while she was growing up were also the center of the social structure in her neighborhood.

So she decided to turn it into a business.


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December 2016