Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dumb City Regulations Threaten Foodtrucks

Matt Yglesias writes in about how dumb city regulations around the country are threatening to kill the innovative, entrepreneurial food truck revolution:

"The fact that business owners would prefer not to face competition is not a valid regulatory purpose. A food truck is a kitchen and a vehicle and should need to follow the rules that generally apply to both things. But there’s no need for extra regulatory burdens over and above those. If you’re allowed to have a restaurant two blocks away from a school, there’s no reason to ban a food truck. If you’re allowed to park a van in a space somewhere, there’s no reason to ban parking a van that also happens to sell food.
Most of all, the fact that an existing business owner [restaurant] objects to the practices of a new business is a terrible reason to block a [food] truck from operating. Space is scarce and rents are high in the centers of major American cities. If new competition can bring prices down, we’ll all be better off in the long run. Meanwhile purveyors of traditional restaurants will be challenged to deploy their unique assets—tables, chairs, a roof, walls—in ways that provide meaningful value to customers. Municipal authorities need to learn to welcome the explosion of innovation happening around them and stop trying to choke it off."

MP: This is a perfect example to invoke the profound advice from French economist Bastiat: "Treat all economic questions from the viewpoint of the consumer, for the interests of the consumer are the interests of the human race."  

Unfortunately, in the world of politics, the viewpoint of the incumbent producers (restaurant owners in this case) frequently trumps the viewpoints of the consumer and the upstart producers (food trucks).  


At 2/23/2012 10:15 AM, Blogger FloridaSteve said...

Timely article. We are going through this very debate here in Jacksonville Fl and all the usual rent seeking regulatory debate.

At 2/23/2012 10:15 AM, Blogger FloridaSteve said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/23/2012 11:05 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Well I wonder how many of these regulations hindering food trucks were already on the books and how many of them started appearing when the food trucks started to show up?

I can understand the restaurant owners point of view considering they've been paying 'protection money' for years and now where's the protection?

At 2/23/2012 11:53 AM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

I will go even further: American cities need push-cart vendors. The best food in Thailand is often from push-cart vendors, especially soup.

But local and state government are the worst abusers of commercial freedoms, usually at the behest of local businesses, who do not want competition.

Also, note that every state licenses lawyers---and lawyers even write op-eds to the effect that law schools are turning out "too many" graduates.

Delicense law entirely, and watch lawyers properly devolve back to clerk status.

At 2/23/2012 11:56 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

How might food truck vendors in Denver avoid city regulators?


Hunger Search & Rescue's Lunchtime Emergency Unit, as well as American Seafood Response and Lunch Police could be an answer.

At 2/23/2012 1:09 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

And how about those business-suffocating county commissioner idiots in North Dakota, limiting farmers to three house trailers per farm?

The farmers want to rent out trailers to oil workers.

At 2/23/2012 3:25 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Speaking of dumb regulations, remember the Gibson Guitar raid?

On YouTube this six minute clip: The Great Gibson Guitar Raid: Months Later, Still No Charges Filed

At 2/23/2012 5:04 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Buddy: "How might food truck vendors in Denver avoid city regulators?


Thanks Buddy, those are great. :)

At 2/24/2012 12:25 AM, Blogger Cabodog said...

In our town, my experience with food carts has been disappointment. While a novelty, prices are no bargain, there's no place to sit, I'm eating off of paper places and the quality of the food, overall, is sub-par.

I don't understand the current fascination with the carts, other than people enthralled with helping out the "little guy" at their own expense.

I'm thinking it's a passing fad and certainly not an area of growth.

At 2/24/2012 1:07 PM, Blogger morganovich said...


tell it to manhattan, where such carts have been a staple for decades.

not sure where you live, but SF has great food carts, and the sausage and onion carts on key west are EPIC once you've been drinking.

we had great food trucks in providence as well that were a staple in my fraternity's diet.

far from being a fad, this has been around forever and keeps getting better if local government keep their paws off the space.


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