Entrenched interests support hampering competitors, pt. 234579238156

All right, a few words about DC food trucks. First, white people in DC are very proud that white people invented this thing called a food truck, and that white people have food trucks for serving stylish food to other, mostly white people. They think that you poor schmucks who don’t live in the DC area know and envy them for their food trucks. My first thought was ¿Cómo?, followed by the realization that they weren’t kidding.

That personal message aside, food trucks are under attack in DC. The classic regulatory kind of attack. This time it’s from the president of Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Lynne Breaux writes that she and her organization completely support food trucks—as long as they comply with the spirit of the Vending Regulation Act of 2009. This act allows trucks to get permits for specific places. I know what you’re thinking: it’s a food truck right, as in it can drive around selling food in different locations depending on demand? Yes, that’s so, but then it’s a more unpredictable competitor for established restaurants and their advocacy groups. They disguised this concern by justifying it on the grounds that inspectors needed to know where to find the trucks. It sounds reasonable, but it’s interesting how the best solution was the one that reduced the food trucks’ advantage the most.

Newer proposed vending regulations would allow a food truck to park in any legal parking spot, selling food to willing customers. Predictably, entrenched interests fear that this would lead to a “food truck free-for-all”. Let me translate that for you: more food trucks means more competition. As you recall from Econ 101, competition is good for consumers. As you may not recall from Econ 101, established businesses will generally oppose new competition and will almost invariably cloak this opposition in some sort of public-interest language.

From RAMW’s website:

RAMW, in addition to many individual members, has been very active in campaigns and fundraising in local elections – giving greater power to the voice and the vote of RAMW members. We also advocate strongly to DC officials to craft regulations and laws that adequately consider the interests of RAMW members and the greater restaurant industry.

I leave it to the reader to interpret Lynne Breaux’s op-ed however he or she likes.

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