by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
It’s always fascinating when policymakers declare that you and I don’t “want” or “need” any more choices. Rather than allow marketplace competition to decide what we “want” or “need,” they think they know best. It’s happening in a New York town, which is considering banning new restaurants, as Baylen Linnekin points out at reason.com.
The Citizen notes the ban was first considered last summer, when the planning board determined that “new restaurant development can destroy the value of one’s home investment.” (I’m a little bit skeptical.) The board considered that much of the area consists of “owner-occupied condominiums valued over $1 million.” Indeed, the Citizen reports residents of those pricey condos generally support the move, while those outside the historic district are generally opposed.
Another worry cited by the city was the potential for “noise and smells,” local news outlet LocalSYR.com reported last month.
The rationale for the ban appears to be a familiar mix of protectionism: protecting neighborhood character, protecting existing restaurants from competition, and protecting existing home prices.
If this goes forward, existing restaurants will become the protected class. In short, they won’t have to worry about new competition. That’s good for them, bad for their customers. It is through competition that businesses stay focused on serving the customer, developing new products, delivering quality service, keeping prices reasonable, etc.
By the way, the author of the piece is Baylen Linnekin. We hosted Baylen at a Shaftesbury Society meeting last year. Here’s a two-minute interview with Baylen Linnekin discussing “Big Food,” which is the subject of his book,”Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable.”