by Dr. Michael Sanera
Director of Research and Local Government Studies
If you look carefully, at this 1900 photo of Hester Street in New York City, you can see my grandparents, or at least their spirit. My German grandfather came to America from East Prussia in 1906. My German grandmother came from one of the Seven Saxon villages in Transylvania about the same time. My Swedish grandparents escaped the grinding poverty of Sweden in the early 1900s to come to America in search of opportunity just as those pictured on Hester Street in New York City in 1900.
They were lucky that they did not come to Raleigh in 2011 where the liberals on the city council are about to vote on food truck regulations that will virtually outlaw them in the city. These liberals are eager to enact special interest regulations that protect existing restaurants from the competition from food trucks and thus destroy the opportunity to succeed or fail based on ones own merits. In the free society that my grandparents entered in the early 1900s willing buyers and sellers could come together on Hester Street and make mutually beneficial exchanges with minimal interference by government.
Not so in Raleigh where the liberals on the city council are protecting special interest that contribute to their campaigns and that they rub elbows with at major social functions. They are not interested in representing the thousands of citizens who would like to buy food from a food truck and the hundreds the entrepreneurs who only want the chance to live their dream. I guess they would rather see the unemployed sit on street corners in southeast Raleigh and collect unemployment and welfare thus remaining dependent on government.
The brick and mortar restaurants claim that the competition from low overhead food trucks is unfair. Well, free markets are about competition and adjusting to the changing wishes of consumers. Would the country be better off if government had prevented the competition from personal computers that put the typewriter industry out of business? Would be country be better off if government had prevented A&P from putting the mom and pop grocery stores out of business. Or on a personal note, would the country have been better off if government had saved my parent’s mom and pop radio and television store from competition from department stores and big box stores that sold televisions at a lower price putting them out of business?
The brick and mortar restaurants need to get over it and compete. There is nothing, except the city’s oppressive regulations, that prevents them from setting up a food truck outside their restaurant or joining food truck rodeos set up on private property. Special interest protectionism makes Raleigh a poorer place and is an example of the crony capitalism that is sweeping the nation at all levels.
Many food trucks will skirt the regulations and set up “illegally” in order to serve consumers who desire their food. Thus the oppressive food truck regulations will make “criminals” of people who just want to earn a living.
Finally, the city council members have a political conflict of interest. They have forced city taxpayers to subsidize the failing Mint restaurant on Fayetteville Street. By preventing food trucks on Fayetteville Street, they are attempting to stave off for just a little longer the political embarrassment that will follow the ultimate failure of their “white tablecloth restaurant.”