Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Anti-Wal Mart Regulation Hits Small Businesses Hardest

Maintaining small town "charm" by keeping big box stores out enables a regulatory apparatus that ultimately hits small businesses hardest.

Local officials who simultaneously decry big box stores and national chains while doling out burdensome regulatory structures and complicated permit processes should understand that regulatory burdens hit the smaller, independent places hardest, because they're the places that have the smallest amount of discretionary cash to hire legal aid (or, if you're really cynical, to make the appropriate campaign contributions). They're on a tighter budget and, therefore, have a smaller margin of error when it comes to hassles like delaying an opening because some bureaucrat determined their signage is a couple of inches out of compliance.

There's a larger lesson in all of this, too. Those who push for federal regulations to rein in "big business" often don't realize that the biggest of big businesses don't mind heavy federal regulation at all. They have the resources to comply with them, not to mention the clout in Washington to get the regulations written in a way that most hurts upstarts and competitors.

Big businesses know that a heavy regulatory burden is the best way to make sure small- and medium-sized businesses never rise up to challenge them.

1 comment:

Tom Forbes said...

Very, very true Michael.

An example of this can be found with a couple of Old Town Alexandria stores where I spent a lot of time back when I lived in Virginia: Full Metal Jacket and Potomac Arms. Both were forced out of Old Town by a city "Open Space" initiative last year using the threat of eminent domain. Potomac Arms, a gun store, folded up completely because of the regulations associated wsith selling with guns these days. And Full Metal Jacket, a militaria store, moved to another location in Alexandria.

That was the neat thing about Old Town. It wasn't just the standard yuppie/liberal/urban vibe. In addition to Potomac Arms and Full Metal Jacket, Interarms, a major arms distributor with ties to the CIA, was also located in Old Town.

Ah, it takes me back to the heady days of glasnost and when I was a big-time collector of Nationale Volksarmee (East German Army) items. Whenever Full Metal Jacket would get a new shipment from the former Eastern Bloc, Mark, the owner, would give me a call and I would come up and spend hours (and hundreds of dollar) there.