Posts Tagged ‘regulations’

Sign of the Times

I was recently invited along on a family trip for three days of rafting in the Grand Canyon followed by a couple days in Las Vegas.  Among other things, while in Vegas my wife and I did some sight-seeing and visited the Hoover Dam and The Neon Museum.  The museum is “dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic and cultural enrichment.”  It’s an interesting place to visit as you are able to learn some of the history of Las Vegas as told through the signage.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.neonparadise.com/Pages/TheBoneyard.aspx

The Green Shack Sign (Photo courtesy of: http://www.neonparadise.com/Pages/TheBoneyard.aspx)

Although there were many intriguing pieces in “the boneyard”, the one I found most compelling was the oldest member of the collection – the sign for The Green Shack Restaurant which opened in the 1930s.  By the time it closed in 1999, it was the oldest restaurant in Las Vegas.  The sign itself is rather unremarkable, but what really caught my attention was the story behind it.

The Boneyard (Photo courtesy of Marjorie)

The Boneyard (Photo courtesy of Marjorie)

As we were told by our tour guide, the restaurant got its start when Mattie Jones, a recent widow, began selling lunches (and bootleg whiskey) out of her kitchen window to the men building the Hoover Dam.  Demonstrating that savings and investment is the true path to prosperity, Mattie was able to accumulate enough money to eventually open her own restaurant.  This simple entrepreneurial act, so common in years past, sounds like something out of fairy tale today.  I mean, kids can’t even sell lemonade to their neighbors anymore without getting shut down by cops.

policeshutdownlemonadestand

Because of the massive regulatory state that has been erected over the past several decades, it is nearly impossible for poor people to improve their condition through the type of initiative shown by Mrs. Jones.  As John Stossel puts it

Street vending has been a path out of poverty for Americans. And like other such paths (say, driving a taxi), this one is increasingly difficult to navigate. Why? Because entrenched interests don’t like competition. So they lobby their powerful friends to erect high hurdles to upstarts. It’s an old story.

Now, growing local governments are crushing street vendors.

The city of Atlanta, for example, has turned all street vending over to a monopoly contractor. In feudalist fashion, all existing vendors were told they must work for the monopoly or not vend at all.

“Vendors who used to paying $250 a year for their vending site must now hand over $500 to $1,600 every month for the privilege of working for the monopoly,” wrote Bob Ewing in The Freeman.

The arguments attempting to  justify these regulations usually rest on the tired canard that they are necessary in order for the government to ensure public safety.  These protectionist measures, often written by lobbyists solely for the benefit of their business interests, offer only a veneer of security but with no real substance.  As an example, my wife came down with a nasty case of  food poisoning during our rafting trip after partaking in a Vegas buffet.  This was not from some shady street vendor, but at a first class casino/hotel.  A number of our fellow rafters on the trip empathized with her situation because they had once gone through the same thing.  Why have so many people contracted food poisoning if the government is truly keeping us safe?

Fortunately, the internet is enabling an end-run around these stifling restrictions by providing people with a method by which to take part in the sharing economy.  From taxi services to teacher lesson plans to home restaurants, the sharing economy is transforming the ways in which people contract for services in the digital age.  ReasonTV has an excellent video series highlighting the pioneers who are inventing better methods for connecting customers to providers while the government and their cronies do their best to try and shut them down.  Governments hate progress.  They are forever trying to maintain and regulate the past while the market finds new ways to bring people together for mutual benefit.

I recommend watching all of the videos, but embedded below is the one that is most relevant to this discussion.  Maybe the next Mattie Jones will develop their skills and reputation though Eatwith and then use crowdfunding to raise the money for their own restaurant.  The potential of the this new technology is tremendously exciting.  Hopefully it isn’t crushed by the heavy hand of government.

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