…to protect the poor. Or so my friends have argued.
But, time and time again, I see government intervention perverting many means out of poverty. While ineffective foreign aid and protectionism hurt those in the developing world the most, many Americans have had their economic aspirations atrophied by laws all over the country which target small businesses. John Stossel wrote beautifully about this recently:
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. Ewing works for the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public-interest law firm that defends victims of anticompetitive regulation.
I’ve heard similar stories of money-soaking regulations from taxi drivers (to the delight of my gypsie cab drivers), bar owners, etc. etc. (Bill McGurn wrote a great op-ed in the WSJ about a private soup kitchen which is being taxed out of existence.)
The more I read, the more I believe that the government is protecting the poor … from prosperity.