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Regulating our way to Mediocrity
I have baked bread at home my whole life.
Because I love baking and eating, my bread is very good. So it was no surprise an entrepreneur opening a year round trendy indoor market in New York asked me to take a stall and sell my bread to the public once a week.
Why not? I thought. It seemed like the adult version of a kid's lemonade stand.
But that was before the realities of making anything edible for sale came crashing down on my head.
I once heard the astounding statistic that only 7% of U.S. citizens are now in a small business. This in a country where almost everything was small business just a few generations ago.
I now know why. The layers of bureaucratic regulations, licenses, code, taxes, insurance requirements, permits, fines, and inspectors have reached a point that it's much, much easier to do nothing. Or just do it illegally. Or simply work for someone else. Or lie in your parent's basement and collect welfare and food stamps.
I discovered my little one-man part-time bakery, using borrowed space in a commercial kitchen and selling in a farmers market, would have the same level of federal, state, county, and village compliance and costs as a full-size restaurant with kitchen and wait staff serving 3 meals a day.
I now understand why bureaucrats are itching to close down kid's lemonade stands. It's almost the last bastion of truly free enterprise in a heavily overregulated and taxed America and thus, cannot be tolerated.
It wasn't even easy to figure out the laws. There were so many government layers involved in setting up my micro bakery, no one site could list all the requirements. The reality is that it took a lawyer to scour the thousands of regulations in different departments and authorities to find which might apply. And I might still be fined if he missed one.
Happily I am a person of some means and with principles.
So the substantial funds needed to set up the business were not the main problem.
It was principle thing which held me back. I kept asking myself, what do I need this trouble for?
I live a quiet life with minimal government attention. By baking for a farmers market, I am now attracting close scrutiny on federal, state, county, and village level as each parasitic department clambers for its unearned take.
So I make great bread which folks would love to eat. What difference would it really make if I do it or not? After all, the world is not short of bread.
But it does make a difference. We are regulating ourselves into mediocrity. Many very successful large businesses started in garages or backrooms but would not be allowed to start today due to current restrictive codes.
By overwhelming the entrepreneur with expensive compliance demands and treating a start up and mature business the same, government is crushing emerging business and with it the spirit which made America great. That is why only 7% of Americans are now in small business. Self-reliance has been crushed.
I know that in Reagan's can-do America, I would not have hesitated to bring my bread to market. Maybe it would have developed into a full scale bakery, maybe not.
But at least the market would have decided.
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