Bryan Caplan  

A License to Sing?

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I was confused last night while watching the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. For a reason I couldn't grasp, Billie needed to win over public opinion in order to get a "cabaret card." But surely, I told my wife, you never needed a license to sing, right?

Wrong. Here's what I found out on Wikipedia:

New York City Cabaret Card

From Prohibition until 1960, New York City required "cabaret card" permits to be held by all workers in its nightclubs. Their administration was fraught with politics, and some performers' cards were revoked on specious grounds. Those of Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday were suspended due to drug charges...

I guess if the public needs to be protected from bad haircuts, it stands to reason that it also needs to be protected from stoned singers.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Brad Hutchings writes:

I dunno Bryan. Your headline for this certainly seems to have a libertarian bias. It's in the form of a question as if to say, "How ridiculous does this sound!?!" Stoned singers are a serious menace, and your biased headline does nothing to solve the problem.

More likely, it was non-union singers and musicians that were the targets.

T.R. Elliott writes:

Nice example of pointless micromanagement and govt interference in private matters.

See, I can be agreeable if I try real hard.

Robert Schwartz writes:

I believe that barbers have the right to perform certain minor surgical procedures, and certainly use chemicals on their customers bodies.

I assume the cabaret license was a part of the Copperhead Democrats' ongoing war against blacks in the United States.

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