Putting the “Protect” in “Protectionism” When It Comes to Food Trucks

It's a guarantee the restaurant industry has more money to throw around than the food truck guild does.

What is the proper role of government?

It’s an important question that we need to think about when reading about stories like this one out of Chicago.

From the Declaration of Independence,

“…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…”

The Founding Fathers believed government’s role was to secure and protect our rights, not our bottom line or our business.

Someone needs to let Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney know about this.  He apparently believes the role he plays is to stand between restaurants and innovative competition.  He’s one of two protectionists on the Chicago City Council taking aim at the city’s new food truck industry.

Chicago just began allowing food trucks to operate in the city a little over a week ago and people are already trying to restrict them.

Alderman Tom Tunney’s bill would ban them around Wrigley Field.  Alderman Brendan Reilly’s proposed ordinance would ban them from upscale neighborhoods.


Check out this quote from Alderman Tunney circa 2011:

According to The Huffington Post, Tunney told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011, “We’ve got work to do. We need to hear from all sides. We need to make sure we protect … restaurants and foster a trend that, I think, is gonna be here for a while.”

Wow.  He just put it right out there.

According to him, it’s the role of government to protect private businesses from other businesses.  Really think about that while you read this from his campaign website:

As a small business owner, Tom understands the struggles that most small businesses go through. Tom also knows how crucial small businesses are to Lakeview’s continued growth and success.

“That’s why Tom proposed new ordinances to limit where these new businesses could operate, prohibiting them from even considering going where they could be most profitable.”

Seems legit.

It’s not as if the restrictions placed on food carts weren’t already ridiculous.  The Daily Signal reports that regulations will not allow a food truck to stay in one place for more than two hours and they are tracked by GPS.

You know, like a felon out on parole.  Basically, food trucks are like restaurants with an ankle bracelet.

“Where you been today, Mr. Fish Taco Truck?”

“Oh, you know…around.”

“Yeah, well let’s just see about that.  Says here you were in front of a construction site for two hours, fifteen minutes.”

“Well, it was over lunch and those guys like fish tacos.  And churros…want a churro?”

“Stuff your churro. I’m going to have to bring you in.”

Not only is this oppressive, but the Illinois Policy Institute projects big money for Chicago if they just get out of the food truck industry’s way. Licensing fees alone for food trucks would generate more than $8.5 million annually.

For those who don’t understands licensing fees and their purpose, here’s a graphic explaining it:


Chicago isn’t the only city with city officials being open and honest about their protectionist beliefs.  Horry County, South Carolina was thinking about letting food trucks run on a trial basis, but couldn’t even allow that. Councilman Harold Worley said he voted against it to protect restaurants.

“I just think the way it’s written is just too much, too soon,” Worley said. “You can say what you want to, it’s going to hurt brick and mortar.

Yeah, it might, if the restaurants can’t compete.  If they can, they will be fine.  But it’s not the role of government to pick winners and losers.

This is why we have so much corruption.  Bureaucrats and politicians who get involved in the free-market, mucking around where they don’t belong.

How much does the restaurant associations donate to these two?  How does that influence their vote?

It’s a guarantee the restaurant industries in both of these cities have more money to throw around than the food truck guild does.  And I honestly don’t blame them for using government to protect their business.  I blame people in government for thinking that’s what they are there to do.

And I blame the people for being more preoccupied with what Kim Kardashian is wearing than how their government is crushing innovation and small business.

So while these hypocrites are keeping restaurants safe from the scourge of competition, businesses that could be generating revenue for their owners, paying employees when they expand and buy more carts, buying supplies from local vendors and providing customers with food they enjoy either don’t exist or are severely handicapped from reaching their full potential.

But at least the restaurants aren’t put in a position where they need to lower their prices, improve their food, provide better service or otherwise be better.

I mean, how does using the free market to force businesses to improve or die benefit a city anyway, right? Aside from the overall quality of the city being better and visitors raving about how great everything was, there’s really nothing to gain allowing the best business to be chosen by a free-market.

Protectionists like Tunney and Worley may honestly believe they are doing the right thing, but in using force to eliminate the threat of competition, they are allowing mediocrity to thrive and small business dreams to die.

Governments, when outside of their roles, tend to hurt the smallest among us first.  Ask a food truck owner in Chicago about it and see if they disagree.


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