Bureaucracy and Business Regulation

A friend of mine, who is a running enthusiast and lives in a red state, has for the past few years been putting on an annual foot race in a county park. A few hundred people participate. Everyone has fun and it is a successful event that gains participants with each successive year. I don’t think my friend makes any money from his efforts. He is doing it because he himself has participated in many races over the years and gets satisfaction out of giving back, as he put it. It takes a lot of work to organize even a small event of this type.

My friend told me that he is not planning to put on the race after this year. Why? He used to go to the park manager to arrange the necessary permits and so forth, but the County now requires him to arrange everything through a county office that makes event arrangements for the entire system. This leads to a great deal of additional hassle for my friend. Where the park manager was helpful in dealing with issues that are important in organizing a small race, his counterpart in the county office is clueless. The county office has a one-size-fits-all written agreement that is designed for big events and they are unwilling to negotiate on anything. For example, the contract stipulates that my friend must show proof that he carries workman’s comp, even though he has no employees, and that he must obtain from each service provider (portable toilets, race timing services, etc.) a signed statement that they do not do business with the governments of Iran or Sudan. This is crazy and my friend doesn’t think it’s worth the trouble.

My friend doesn’t put on foot races for a living and can simply walk away, but small businesspeople increasingly have to deal with similar issues. The net aggregate cost must be enormous.

5 thoughts on “Bureaucracy and Business Regulation”

  1. Red states aren’t that much better than blue states about such things, sometimes they just seem a bit time lagged. The nature of government seems to be a universal constant right up there with the speed of light in a vacuum.

  2. Similar story in Colorado. Small mountain town about an hour’s drive from here, kinda our equivalent of Austin, Texas; full of artists, musicians, fugitives from Haight-Ashbury. Friends of ours who own a business there have been sponsoring and organizing an annual 3 day live music festival for 3 decades. This year the city government tripled all fees, demanded all cash up front a year in advance [hard to do because part of the fees are for vendors and you don’t know till within a couple of weeks of the festival which ones are going to make it there], and literally sic-ed their parking control people on the festival to generate as much income as possible from tickets [among other things, carrying around a ruler to measure to see if one wheel was more than 12 inches from the curb]. Now this is a mountain town that exists on tourist dollars, and festivals bring in the tourists.

    It is not just that one festival, but all of them in that town. Tourists are starting to avoid the town, because it is not worth it to get a couple of parking tickets for the privilege of spending money there.

    Later today, I’m going to my local city hall to pick up the information packet for such events to send to my friend,at his request. We have the park space with a bandshell stage already used for weekly concerts all summer, lots of parking, and attached playgrounds/duck ponds for the little kids. We’ll see if my town is more friendly. I suspect it may be.

    Subotai Bahadur

  3. A microcosm of government run amok.

    I had a similar experience with the revenue police in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We used to take the kids to there and other Delaware beaches because they had more family and child oriented amusements at better prices and was quieter and more peaceful than places like Ocean City, Maryland.

    However, one busy Sunday I committed the crime of parking with the rear bumper of our car overhanging a no parking zone. I was not ticketed. My car was impounded. Long story short, I not only have never returned to Rehoboth Beach (and never will) I have not returned to any Delaware beach and never will.

    Remember, if you’re a tourist town, those tourist scum are your enemies!

    And if you’re an aircraft town like Seattle, Boeing is your enemy!

    (Rinse and repeat.)

  4. Mike,

    I hope you told some of the Delaware businesses that you used to patronize why you are not returning.

  5. Mike, I had a similar experience in Newport Rhode Island. We went to a restaurant on the waterfront for dinner. When we came out the car had been towed to some mysterious place. Apparently, the parking lot changed management at 6 PM and you had to reregister with whoever it was again. There were no signs indicating this. I had to find the tow yard and ransom my car. Never been back.

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